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WOFF (Web Open Font Format)

October 2009: Mozilla announces that Firefox, in its next update, will support the Web Open Font Format (WOFF). Conceived by Mozilla's own Jonathan Kew and font-designer/programmers Erik van Blokland and Tal Leming, WOFF addresses the concerns about unlicensed distribution expressed by many font-designers and, at the same time, holds the promise of a web-friendly, interoperable font format for the future. In the specs of this compressed format, one reads: This document specifies a simple compressed file format for fonts, designed primarily for use on the web. The WOFF format is directly based on the table-based sfnt structure used in TrueType[1], OpenType[2] and Open Font Format[3] fonts, which are collectively referred to as sfnt-based fonts. A WOFF font file is simply a repackaged version of a sfnt-based font in compressed form. The format also allows font metadata and private-use data to be included separately from the font data. WOFF encoding tools convert an existing sfnt-based font into a WOFF formatted file, and user agents restore the original sfnt-based font data for use with a webpage. Here are my reactions:

  • Why the O in WOFF? What is Open about it, if like all previous formats, it is compressed and only accessible to hackers?
  • Now it just a matter of waiting for converters that take truetype and or opentype into WOFF and vice versa. Well, truetype to WOFF exists (sfnt2woff) for Mac OS and Windows, thanks to the Mozilla people. WOFF to truetype is still missing, but it is a tter of time before somethng called woff2ttf will be published. I am sure the WOFF proposers already have such a tool, so why not make it available?
  • If I were a commercial font vendor afraid of placing my own truetype fonts on a web page, I would be worried about a possible WOFF to truetype converter. If I were a commercial font vendor not afraid of placing my own truetype fonts on a web page, then why would I use WOFF?
  • A font should only exist in one basic core form. The technology exists to take a truetype or opentype font and use it in web pages. So, why create another cesspool of formats to deceive commercial font vendors into thinking that their valuable fonts are safe from theft in this way, or to convince them that this is another licensing cow that can be milked for a few years?

WOFF (Web Open Font Format)
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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html