[Interactive Age] Web font war: What it means

Rohit Khare (khare@pest.w3.org)
Wed, 28 Feb 96 12:30:58 -0500

.Web font war: What it means

On the heels of a similar Web font announcement yesterday by Adobe, Apple and
Netscape, ..Microsoft Corp.. said it will expand support for TrueType fonts
in its Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft rolled out forty companies--including Hewlett-Packard, Macromedia
and Oracle, as well as a good supply of smaller font houses--to support its

Microsoft and .Netscape. already support a basic sub-set of TrueType fonts in
their browsers, but the goal of both groups is to basically allow Web authors
to use any font they want when authoring Web pages.

The key difference between the two announcements is that while Microsoft and
friends are supporting TrueType fonts only, the Adobe/Apple/Netscape group is
supporting both TrueType and Type 1, the latter being a class of Adobe-created
fonts that are widely used today by print publishers.

.Adobe. believes Web authors--who often do work or have a background in print
medium--are demanding support for Type 1 fonts. The Adobe-led group is
working on Type 1 font technology to support new capabilities such as support
anti-aliasing, which creates sharper on-screen display; embedded, compressed
fonts, which will let users download fonts they need on-the-fly; and
progressively rendered fonts that will flow in like compressed GIF images,
said Pierre Bedard, Adobe's OEM business manager.

"Frankly, I believe publishers are more interested in Type 1 fonts," said
Bedard. "For hard-core publishers, people who do this professionally, Type 1
fonts are what they use."

Microsoft counters that TrueType fonts are much more widely used than Type 1,
especially for on-screen display. TrueType ships on all Windows platforms as
well as on the Apple Macintosh, said Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's program
manager, Internet Platform Tools division.

"I would characterize [Adobe's press release] as a preemptive, reactive
release," Fitzgerald said. "TrueType fonts are in use all over the place, and
it is the best technology for on-screen display."

In addition, Fitzgerald said, TrueType already supports most of the features,
such as anti-aliasing, that are just now being built-in to Type 1. "Adobe
made the trade off to optimize Type 1 for print. We are a generation ahead in
on-screen display. Type 1 is playing catch-up."

For Web authors, the big question is: will this schism lead to more
fracturing of the Web? The answer, it appears, is yes and no. It is likely
that both Netscape and Microsoft will implement downloadable fonts using the
W3 Consortium's proposed style sheets feature. But if one browser supports
Type 1 and the other doesn't, Web authors could be faced with the same old
difficult decision regarding which browser extensions to support.

You can read more about Microsoft's TrueType plans at

--Richard Karpinski