Ascender Proposes New Web Font Format To Break Font Embedding Logjam…

Ascender: Trying to break a logjam sweet if they succeed…

Font vendor Ascender Corporation has proposed a new solution – based on a new Webfont format – which it hopes will solve the problem of using fonts on the Web and meet the needs of both Web designers and font developers.

The proposal has been put forward to try to break a logjam over Web font embedding, involving two competing solutions to support fonts on the Web using the @font-face support in the CSS 2.1 specification.

  • Embedded OpenType – proposed by Microsoft and implemented in Internet Explorer
  • Linking to raw TrueType and OpenType fonts, implemented by Firefox, Chrome and Opera
Font vendors have opposed raw font linking because the threat they feel it poses to their Intellectual Property.

At the same time, Firefox, Chrome and Opera oppose EOT because they believe it gives Microsoft an unfair advantage (since Internet Explorer has supported it since 1996), and because they feel it is too complex, smacks too much of Digital Rights Management, and has IP issues associated with the compression it uses.

The Ascender proposal is for a new .OTW web font format, to replace both raw fonts and EOT. It claims the new Web-specific format will ensure that all fonts, both free fonts and commercial fonts, can be used on web sites.

In announcing the proposal, Ascender said: “High quality typography on the web will never reach its full potential unless the needs of web designers and font developers are addressed. This solution is easy for designers to use and for browser makers to implement, and can be scaled from single page blogs to large corporate web sites. Our solution is also free of proprietary and patent roadblocks, and most importantly is, in our opinion, acceptable to font developers wishing to minimize unauthorized use and uncontrolled re-distribution of their font software.

“Most font developers believe that without a technological check-point (even a simple one), that web developers and server owners will not understand that they may not simply copy a font from a workstation and use it on the web. Further, many are concerned about ‘deep linking/inline linking’ by unlicensed third parties.”

The new format includes proposals for subsetting, to reduce the size of files which would have to be downloaded for fonts with large character sets (e.g. Japanese or Korean), and simple obfuscation of the raw font files to create a barrier to hinder unauthorized font usage.

For technical details of how the new format will work and how new .OTW fonts would be created, see the Font Embedding website.

Ascender sent me a copy of the proposal and asked for my views.

Although I was the person who first proposed that Microsoft should open up its previously-proprietary EOT solution and present it to the W3C as OpenSource, I have to say that I don’t care what the eventual accepted Webfont solution turns out to be, as long as:
  1. Font vendors are happy enough with the proposal that they agree to license fonts for Web use.
  2. All the browsers support one single standard.
And that’s really the acid test for Ascender’s announcement : Will both font vendors and browsers support it?

This issue needs to get solved. I await the responses with bated breath…


2 thoughts on “Ascender Proposes New Web Font Format To Break Font Embedding Logjam…

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