Category Archives: typography

Les Misérables: Would Victor Hugo Applaud Huge Music Download Fines?

Portrait of “Cosette” by Emile Bayard, from the original edition of Les Misérables (1862). The author, Victor Hugo, was the instigator of the Berne Convention, which established international copyright to protect writers and artists.

OK, this post is bound to be controversial. I will absolutely publish any opposing points of view, provided they’re civil. However, I get to moderate the comments, and won’t publish any that overstep the bounds of civilized argument.

This week we heard that a Boston graduate student, Joel Tenenbaum, will probably have to declare bankruptcy after a jury awarded the music industry $645,000 in damages because he had “willfully violated the copyright” on 30 downloaded songs. The court heard that the 30 songs were only the ones on which the music industry (which brought the case) focused, but Tenenbaum admitted on the witness stand that he had downloaded and shared more than 800 songs between 1999 and 2007.

Last month, a federal jury in Minneapolis ruled that Jammie Thomas-Rasset must pay $1.92 million, or $80,000 on each of 24 songs, after a similar conclusion.

Associated Press, which reported the case, said the music industry typically offered to settle such cases for about $5,000, though it has said that it stopped filing such lawsuits last August, and is instead working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders. Cases already filed, however, were proceeding to trial.

The jury awards are draconian, no question. And you have to feel sympathy for those singled out for prosecution. But I’m not sure the music industry had much choice here. Presumably they made an offer to settle, which was refused. At which point, there’s no alternative but to bring a case to trial – otherwise you might as well tell every defendant just to refuse to settle…

Once the accused makes the decision to put the matter into the hands of a jury, it’s a crapshoot – as anyone who has watched some of the more outrageous examples of damages awarded in US cases can see.

The music industry’s often painted as a collection of “fat cat evil megacorporations oppressing the innocent”. However, it was not the music industry which instituted international copyright law. The Berne Convention was adopted in 1886, at the instigation of French author Victor Hugo – to protect creative people. (As of December 2008, there were 164 countries which were parties to the agreement.)

Unfortunately, the ease with which digital data can be copied has spawned a generation which thinks everything is free – or ought to be. A type designer friend of mine has referred to this generation as Generation P (for Parasite). That’s a bit unfair; digital theft is not committed only by the young…

In my view, it’s not enough to work only with the Internet service providers to tackle this issue.

I’m all for the democratization of content creation and distribution which the Internet has brought about. Now anyone can be an author, a musician, a film-maker, a type designer, an artist. All the old barriers to entry – equipment, distribution chains, etc – are now irrelevant. But some people are better at it than others, and some want to make it their career. They ought to be able to make a living – a good living, or a very good living indeed – if they are talented enough.

So I support bringing cases of copyright infringement. All computer users need to learn that stealing a set of digital bits that contain the work of someone else is still stealing from the creator of the work, whether those bits represent music, video, a book or a typeface design. And theft should carry a cost.

“Pour encourager les autres”, as another Frenchman – Voltaire – said in Candide.

I wonder what Victor Hugo – whose novel, Les Misérables, highlighted the lives of the French urban poor, would have made of it all…

Why Creating A New Word For Reading On Screen Is A Terrible Idea…

Multi-column layout: better than a poke in the eye with a sharp pixel…

Dan Bloom is a journalist who currently lives in Taiwan. Over the past few days, he’s generated a flurry of activity on this blog, my Inbox and on FaceBook, with a suggestion that we need to create a new term to describe the activity of reading onscreen. He suggests the term “screening”. (See the comments on my previous post: Paper Dies – But Reading Lives: The Richness of Future Web Reading )

Dan was also very enthusiastic about the multi-column layouts I’ve been experimenting with on my website, and wants to know if there are free templates anywhere he can use, for example so he could read his email in multi-column.

He asked for my opinion on the term “screening”. So here it is:

Creating a new term for reading onscreen is not only unneccessary, but actually counter-productive.

However, Dan’s heart is clearly in the right place, so rather than just respond with another in a string of comments, I decided to escalate the topic and make it the subject of this post. (It’s my party, and I’ll blog if I want to…)

First, the term “screening”. IMO, that’s like admitting defeat – that somehow “reading on screen” is different to “reading on paper”. It’s not. Yes, there are differences today. Reading on screen is not as comfortable as reading from paper. But it can – and should – be. Once it is, then all the advantages of digital information really start to pay off.

Imagine a conversation between two people, fifty years from now…

“How did they communicate information back in the old days?”

“Well, they’d plant trees. After 30 or 40 years of growth, they’d cut them down and transport them in hydrocarbon-burning vehicles to a place called a pulp mill. There, they’d mash them up with a load of chemicals (when they were done with the chemicals, they’d dump them in the nearest river).

“Then they’d roll and press the pulp into long sheets of “paper”. They’d transport those (again, in hydrocarbon-burning vehicles) to a printing works, where they’d use huge machines to put dirty marks on the “paper”, fold it, cut it up, and transport it (more trucks) to the readers, or “bookshops” where people would go to buy the information they wanted or needed.”

Anyone really believe we’ll still be doing that, 50 years from now? For any kind of information?

In the early days of automobiles, they were noisy, smelly and unreliable. In some parts of the world, you weren’t allowed to drive one on the road without a man carrying a red flag walking in front of you as a warning to other road users.

People said the automobile would never replace the horse as the primary means of transport…

As far as reading onscreen is concerned, it’s still the early days. It took about 400 years from Gutenberg to the Linotype machine. We’ve been doing onscreen reading for about 25 years – and it’s only been even halfway bearable for about 10.

We don’t need the man with the red flag any more, but the automobile is still noisy, unreliable – and stinks.

There’s no reason it should be that way. All the technology we need to make reading great on a screen already exists, and could be implemented within a year or two. But the technology companies who make Web browsers, and the people who create Web content, have decided that fighting battles over market share based on “features check lists” is more important than stepping up and implementing a comprehensive plan to make real improvements for everyone who reads on the Web.

Technology companies don’t “get” the importance of fixing reading on screen. Journalists do. That’s why I’m really happy to see someone like Dan stirring up the waters here.

Journalists should be giving technology and media companies a hard time, along the following lines…

  • Reading and writing are still the primary means of human communication (because text is easiest to create).
  • Reading and writing are moving from “making and viewing dirty marks on shredded trees” to “making and viewing digital information”.
  • Reading onscreen is still inferior to reading from paper.
  • What’s your plan to make reading onscreen just as good?
  • What’s your schedule for implementing that plan?

I’d like to see the answers they give.

Now, on the subject of templates for multicolumn layout. The short answer is: I don’t have any, although you’re welcome to use any of the HTML and CSS markup from my website.

But at the risk of repeating myself yet again:

  • Multicolumn layout is much more suited to the screen than single-column (because of the way human vision works)
  • However, it can’t work without Pagination (who wants to scroll down to the bottom of one column, then have to scroll a long way up to the top of the next?)
  • There are many different sizes and shapes of screen. Information has to be paginated “on the fly” for each device
  • This requires adaptive layout. It’s not rocket science – you can see it at work today in applications like the New York Times Reader. But no-one’s doing it on the Web yet, although it’s easily possible.

Fixing reading on screen is vitally important for the human race. You can instantly create the Library of Congress in a village in West Africa. Digital information can be easily translated into minority languages. Books will cost less. Information can be kept up to date. And so on, and so on.

I happen to believe that the first Web browser to do this properly will leave all the others sitting in the dust, wondering just where their market share disappeared to.

I see plenty of “features lists” from the browsers. What I don’t see is strategic, long-term vision.

Paper Dies – But Reading Lives: The Richness of Future Web Reading

Title page from the 1543 edition of Vesalius’ De Humani Corporus Fabrica

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed it’s been pretty quiet for the past few days…

On the other hand, the more alert among you will have noticed that “The Book I’m Reading Now” at the top of the blog was Elizabeth Eisenstein’s groundbreaking work, “The Printing Press As An Agent Of Change”. It’s a magnificent analysis. But it’s a huge reading task – well over 700 pages, very dense. It’s not a casual read; you do have to work at it.

I first read it about ten years ago, while I was doing the intensive research work for The Magic of Reading, but it seemed like a good idea to read it again. The first time, I was more concerned about reading issues per se, but this time it struck me that I’d watched ten years of Internet development since then – and taken part in eBook, eMagazine, eNewspaper and Web development myself.

This is why I like to read books more than once. The book you read is never exactly the same as the author wrote. Because the “real” book goes on inside your head, you always bring your own life experiences, perceptions and state of mind to it. And those are constantly changing – which means you never read the same book twice.

It’s also a good reason to ignore the critics’ view of any book, movie, piece of music or art. Their background is very different to mine – or yours…

There was another good reason for re-reading Eisenstein. A recent blog post by Clay Shirky talked about “thinking the unthinkable”, predicting that the death of newspapers is now certain, although no-one yet knows what will replace them. Shirky referred to Eisenstein, pointing out that the first result of Gutenberg’s technology was a fair amount of chaos, and no-one could have predicted exactly how things would turn out.

Well, it was very interesting. I found myself reading Eisenstein in a very different and much richer way than before. Here’s an example. One of the most influential early printed books was Vesalius’ De Humani Corporus Fabrica, a textbook on human anatomy.

I kept coming across references to it in the text. So much so that I really wanted to take a look at it for myself. In pre-Web days, that would have been a task. But I found a link to a beautiful Flash-based version created by Northwestern University in Illinois, complete with a high-resolution picture of the title page – a great piece of art in itself. Check out the pickpocket being caught in the act in the bottom right of the picture – and the coat-of-arms with the three weasels (Vesalius’ hometown was Wesel in Germany). Jokes that still work after almost five centuries…

When I came across references to logarithms – invented by John Napier, a fellow-Scot (but with a better grasp of mathematics than me) – I could go on to Wikipedia and find out more.

John Napier (1550-1617)

I kept doing the same thing, over and over again. Come across a reference, put down the book, go to my computer, do a Web search (I do like Bing, BTW, that’s become my default search engine), find some good links, spend some time exploring them. I could sometimes spend an hour or more on the background reading before going back to the book.

In other words, my printed book became an interactive multimedia experience which was far bigger and richer than the original. It took me a lot longer to read – but it made the book come to life, and I learned a lot more.

This raises some interesting questions. For instance, I would have liked to have had Eisenstein as an eBook on my Kindle. It’s such a heavy, awkward monster to handle – especially when reading in bed.

However, on Kindle as it is today, that would have made for a much poorer experience – no Web browsing for links… And I’d have hated to see the mess that Kindle’s small screen and poor graphics would have made of the title page of De Fabrica…

I would have liked both: A Kindle version of Eisenstein for portable reading, AND my great MacBook Pro laptop (running Vista) for Web searching and references.

I came across a blog post the other day by someone who had recently read Eisenstein and said it didn’t really get interesting until after the first couple of hundred pages.

He must have been reading with his eyes (or mind) closed. Here was this woman, Elizabeth Eisenstein, single-handedly taking on most of the Renaissance historians, art historians, theological historians etc. of the past couple of hundred years – and eviscerating them. I kept seeing pictures of Joan of Arc in my mind (almost the right period). This is one brave, tough lady, who by herself changed the perception of the impact of printing on the world.

As I said, don’t expect an easy ride – it’s hard work. But if you stick with it, hopefully like me you’ll end up awestruck. Read the combined volumes 1 and 2 – it’s available (but a pricey $61.20) on Amazon in my Recommended Books widget.

BTW, for the past couple of months I’ve been running FireFox as my default browser. Since I run it on Windows, I get ClearType. And it really is very good. I prefer it to Internet Explorer for one main reason – I can “skin” Firefox so the browser chrome is less intrusive on the eyes. I’m using Anycolor, and the dark gray menus, address bar etc are a lot better. Someone also quietly fixed the bug I complained about a few weeks ago. When you put FF into FullScreen view, the bottom of the screen used to leave uncleaned garbage pixels at the bottom – some kind of repaint bug. Anyway, it’s gone now, and FF behaves really well going into and out of FullScreen.

Internet Explorer’s a great browser. But it seems to me that the team I left really has its work cut out if they intend to recover lost market share. If I was a FireFox user, I could see no good reason to switch back to IE – especially if I’d installed Firefox 3.5. And it seems readers of this blog are voting with their feet in much that way – 48.1% of them are Firefox users, with IE users totalling 26.96%. If those figures start to be repeated across the Web, then IE is in deep trouble…

Web Advertising: Still Annoying Readers, Still Failing To Replace Print Revenue…

Three of the “dancing idiots” class of Web ad. There’s no reason for animation, other than to attract your attention and distract you from whatever else you’re doing. (Of course that’s why they do it).

Tanya was busy doing a Web search for the word “frigate”, in connection with a section on frigate birds she’s writing for her book, when she said: “Look at this flashing advert! Haven’t advertisers learned yet that people hate them?”

“What’s your reaction to that kind of thing?” I asked.

“Oh, I would deliberately never buy anything from an advert that either flashes on my screen, or expands to cover the text I’m reading,” she replied. “I resent the way they distract you.”

A few minutes later, a former colleague sent me a link to an article about the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, in which Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft chief executive, claimed that the global advertising economy had been permanently “reset” at a lower level, warning that media companies should not plan for revenues to bounce back to pre-recession levels.

Ballmer argued that traditional broadcast and print media would have to plan business models around a smaller share of the advertising market, as revenues continue to move to digital outlets.

Two apparently unrelated pieces of data. But I believe they are connected.

Print advertising is definitely contracting, and online advertising is rapidly growing. But for “traditional” media companies, their online revenue is not growing fast enough to replace what they’re losing.

I know a little bit about newspaper advertising, since I was a newspaperman for many years, and I believe the “ad mix” is a large part of the problem.

The most lucrative advertising for both newspapers and magazines, believe it or not, used to be “classified” advertising – “small ads” by people who wanted to sell or buy stuff, find a partner, rent an apartment and so on.

Trouble is that eBay and Craigslist have already cornered that market online. And they do a better job. For instance, a friend of my son’s who lives near Seattle just bought a speaker cabinet for a 1970s bass amplifier. He found it on Craigslist – in Portland. Portland’s close enough to Seattle to drive down – but you’d never have found that ad in a local Seattle newspaper.

The second most lucrative class of advertising in newspapers was “display advertising” – full- and half-page ads, for example. These were typically very professionally produced, and usually interesting to look at. In many glossy magazines, people read the ads just as much as the content – Vogue magazine would be a good example.

This is a whole class of advertising that hasn’t yet made it onto the Web – because it depends on properly paginated content (adaptive, of course – your page will almost certainly be different to my page…)

Web technology today doesn’t yet support ads you really want to view. So advertisers resort to animation to draw your eyes. In other words, we have to put up with the “dancing idiots”…

It’s not just the content pages which need to become adaptive, of course – the ads themselves have to adapt; bringing in or leaving out content depending on the size of the “page” and the space they have to fill.

Sound too complex? It’s already been done. Those who signed up for the Microsoft WPF-based version of the New York Times Reader (the first one, now supplanted by an Adobe AIR version), saw a set of adverts which did exactly that.

I believe the company which gets this technology onto the Web and uses it to create “ads you want to view” will become the “next Google”. Unless, of course, it is Google…

My feedback – your animated ad is annoying and I will never respond to it…

White-Water Adventures With The Grandfather Of Type… (from the Bill Hill Archives)

Robert Norton, The Grandfather of Type, with typical mischievous smile
(photo © Gerald Giampa
My first encounter with Robert Norton was surreal. It was 1994, and I was working in Edinburgh, Scotland, for Aldus Europe Limited – the European subsidiary of Seattle-based Aldus Corporation, which I’d helped get started back in 1986.

I came back into the office after a few days’ vacation, and there were three voicemail messages for me – all identical. A plummy English voice said, “This is Robert Norton at Microsoft. We have a job we think you should be doing. Can you give us a call, please?”

I called Robert, and he explained that Microsoft needed someone to run its Typography group in Redmond, Washington, in which he worked. Was I interested, and could I come over for interviews? He met me for dinner the night before my infamous two-day Microsoft interview loop…

Robert was much larger than life. He was one of the key people behind Microsoft’s Windows 3.1 core fonts, which established a new standard in on-screen readability of text when they were revealed to the world in 1991.

To cut a long story short, I got the job – and became Robert’s “manager” (a non sequiteur, if ever there was). It was a job which was mostly admirer, but also equal parts cat-herder, elephant-wrangler, incredulous spectator, and occasionally terrified participant…

Robert was almost certainly Microsoft’s oldest employee at the time – a huge man, with a mischievous sense of humor and an adventurous spirit undimmed by age. He’d sailed from London to Jamaica, and I heard he had broken his ankle hang-gliding at the age of 67.

When he was poking fun at me – and because I knew he’d always take the bait – I used to call him The Grandfather of Type (anyone less like a staid old grandfather would be hard to imagine).

The only clue that he was not always in the best of health would be that he’d turn up for work in the morning still wearing a hospital identity band, having gone to the emergency room where he’d spent the night hooked up to a drip and an ECG machine.

Lunch with Robert was an adventure. He’d insist on driving. You’d buckle up, check the belt was as tight as possible, and close your eyes. On one occasion, we were planning to have lunch at a Thai restaurant in Redmond. Robert drove, in his white Range Rover. But he missed his turn, and found himself on the wrong side of a railroad track and a belt of landscaping. I often wonder what the landscapers thought of the two-foot-deep ruts that ran for a hundred yards until they petered out at the edge of the tracks (which we bounced over). A 4×4 in Robert’s hands was more a Free-Range Rover…

Robert sharing a joke with Matthew Carter

Robert knew we’d bought a beautiful piece of land on the Tolt River, not far from Redmond.”I’d love to come up and see it. I’ll bring my canoe”.
I should have known better. I’d heard rumors…

Robert duly arrived, with a huge three-man canoe he’d bought in some garage sale, lashed to the roof of a minivan.

Our house sits a couple of hundred yards from the river. But the path leading to it goes down a winding, uneven, steeply-sloping and muddy former logging trail which is undrivable. Robert and I managed to manhandle his huge canoe down to the water. It was April or May, the river was still cold with snow-melt, but on our property it was divided by an island. Most of the flow went the other side; our side was not very deep – four or five feet at most, with a fairly gentle current.

Robert and I and my son Eldon – who was perhaps six years old at the time – paddled around for a while until we’d exhausted the limited pleasures of that 400-yard stretch of river.

“I don’t fancy trying to haul the canoe back up the hill,” said Robert. “Why don’t you and I paddle it down to the bridge at Carnation (about two miles away), and Tanya can meet us there in the car?”

No-one had ever told me details about Robert’s adventures. (I think the game was to provide Robert with fresh victims first, then tell them afterwards – you got better stories that way). I assumed that a man who’d sailed a yacht from London to Jamaica knew what he was doing in a canoe. But something made me hand my wallet, car keys and all the other contents of my pockets to Tanya before we set off…

The first stretch wasn’t too bad, except for the branch sticking out of the log-jam, which nearly swept us both into the water when the current sucked us underneath it. I saw Robert disappear beneath a thick pile of cedar fronds; I had enough warning to duck.

Then we reached the part of the river where the two separate flows around the island merged back together, and we learned why the native Snoqualmie people called the river Toltue – which means “Swift Water”…

We ran down a small section of ripples, and the canoe grounded right at the top of a steep section of white water, at the end of which it took a sharp bend to the left, and seemed to be fast-flowing but level after that.

“What do you think?” I asked apprehensively. “It looks fine,” said Robert.

We both pushed hard with our paddles. The canoe took off like a rocket down the white water, banked sharply at the bend and turned upside down, pitching us both into the river. I was trapped underneath, jammed by the current between it and a large rock, but with my head above water and able to breathe. I couldn’t see Robert.

I frantically struggled out of the grip of the current, ducked under the hull and spotted Robert disappearing downstream, floating backwards and blowing like a breaching whale (luckily, we were both wearing lifejackets).

The one thought running through my head was what I’d say next day to my boss at Microsoft – Steve Shaiman. “Oh, no! I’ve lost the Grandfather of Type!”

It was about then I realized, first of all how cold the water was, and second that there was a woman frantically jumping up and down on the deck of her house overlooking the river, shouting, “You guys are crazy! That water was snow a couple of hours ago! A woman drowned there, just last week!”

The current was a bit slower downstream. Robert managed to beach himself on the wrong side of the river, then waded back. He was blue with cold, covered in bruises and small cuts – and otherwise totally unconcerned. Just another boating adventure…

He was persuaded by the couple who owned the house into a hot shower and dry clothes. Next day he went back and retrieved the fiberglass canoe, which was broken-up enough that it would never make another trip.

I told the story in the office next day. Then colleagues would come over and say, “Did you hear about the time Robert…”

My former colleague George Moore tells the story of how he went for a rowing-trip with Robert on Lake Washington – in Robert’s inflatable dinghy, which began to rapidly deflate while they were out in the middle of the lake. George spent the return trip, red-faced, with his mouth glued to the inflation-valve, trying desperately to keep the craft inflated enough to make the shore…

Robert Norton 1929-2001. Never forgotten.

Advertising Is Not A Magic Windmill For eBooks Or Professional Content…

Cartoon from Married To The Sea (c) 2002-2009 Drew and Natalie

I’m grateful to my former colleague Kevin Larson, of the ClearType and Readability Research team at Microsoft, for posting the link to this cartoon on FaceBook. It made me laugh, because of course it also made me think.

All sorts of people with all kinds of political opinions read this blog.

Some are revolutionaries: “All content must be free! News should be free! Books should be free!”

Some are professional news publishers: “We’ve made our news free on the Web, and we’re hoping that we can make a good enough income from advertising to pay for gathering it, but it’s tough since we can’t sell full-page display ads any more, and we can see newspapers going out of business – but we live in hope”.

Some are book publishers: “We’re experimenting with digital books but we don’t want to cannibalize our existing print business, although that means we still have to carry its production costs, and we’re afraid that once books get out there in digital formats they’ll just be copied and we’ll lose all revenue”.

Many revolutionaries believe that most professional publishers are big corporate entities who have been making obscene profits and controlling what information makes it into print. “Just like the record companies did with music, and we know what happened to them…”.

It’s a worry. I don’t think it’s heresy to say that not all writers – and not all information – are created equal. I think it’s a good thing that the barriers to publishing have come down. A lot of material which didn’t get published in the past – but deserved to be – now has the ability to compete on equal terms with professionally-published content. But you ought to be able to depend on professionally-published content to be better-written, -edited and -produced. If the professional content isn’t better, then it deserves to lose out.

I can’t for the life of me see how you can get advertising to pay for books. It may pay for news. But even there, I have to say I’m spoiled by my life as a Brit until less than 15 years ago. Anyone brought up on the BBC has a hard time watching US television, (or listening to US radio) because of the way the programs are so broken up by advertising. Even commercial television in the UK confined its adverts to between programs or in slots every 15 minutes during programs (at least, it used to – things may have changed…)

The BBC received its income from the UK Government – which got part of that back from viewers via the annual TV License fee. The model of state-funded TV worked in the case of the BBC – which always seemed independent enough to get into trouble with the Government of the Day, whatever its political complexion. Of course, in many countries it doesn’t work that way…

Microsoft and Real Networks are trying an “unlimited music for a monthly license fee” model. Remains to be seen how that will pan out, especially given Apple’s virtual monopoly of the digital music player marketplace.

I’d really like to hear people’s ideas on this issue, related to reading material. But positive ideas only, please! If you just want to rant at The System or The Mindless Revolutionaries, please do it somewhere else…

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…