RE: Can browsers show text? I don't think so!

From: Michael Jansson (
Date: Tue Jul 02 2002 - 17:16:22 EDT

See below.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Starner []
> Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2002 11:50 PM
> To: Michael Jansson; ''
> Subject: Re: Can browsers show text? I don't think so!
> This is text. Changing fonts is just flash. And frankly, no
> modern browser has
> any trouble with anything from Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, or
> CJK; Hebrew, Thai,
> Arabic and any script that doesn't shape or combine is
> usually supported too.
> I'd say they show text just fine.

Are you saying that browser do support all languages, as long as you exclude
all languages that are not supported? Well.... ;-)

My point is that it would be great if browsers supported all languages, no
matter how complicated the language is. Still, even with languages that does
not require shaping, you have problems. For example, a typical Western
Mac/Win/Unix user may not have a Georgian/Chinese/(insert your favorite
language here) font on his machine. This is a problem that is solved with
CSS 2. Still, there is not any wide spread support for web fonts in modern
browsers. I wonder why?

Being able to manually install fonts is not helpful in many cases either.
Mere mortals (you know, "ordinary" people that just want to surf the net)
don't know how to install fonts, nor would they no where to find fonts, or
even know that they are anyway.

> >(I do not consider solutions where you have
> >to download a 10MB+ language package to see a page in a
> foreign language.
> >It's not a viable solution.)
> So you'd rather download the fonts every time you want to view a page,
> rather than just once? It's not like any one can't afford
> 10MB of space
> anymore.

You would not need 10MB to show a single web page, or even a full web site.

The link below will take you to a web page that shows 500 Japanese
characters (courtesy of Morisawa Co Ltd) and a fairly large point size
(18px). The file size of the pages and the font data is roughly 20kb (font:
<20kb, page: ~1kb) if you are using a popular browser on Mac OS9 or Windows.
It would take a modem users ~3-7s to load this page. Size is not an issue
w.r.t. web fonts.

This scales up very well as well, because pages may share font resources. A
font with 2000 characters would be 80kb in this case, and would perhaps work
for hundres of pages. Note also that I would only need to download this data
_once_ (it would stick stay in the browser cache), and it would be done
without any user interaction (i.e. no manual labour). You click on the link
and you see the text. It should not have to be more complicated than that.

> >So what we have today are applications called "web browsers"
> that are very
> >good at showing images, and animations. They are not very
> good at showing
> >text, other than unformatted English text.
> If you want to nitpick, they aren't that good at showing images;
> look at how modern browsers fail the PNG transparency test
> one of these days.
> And for most animations, you have to download 10MB+ plugins.

OK, so they are good for nothing then... (just kidding ;-)

> Every web browser since the beginning of time has supported
> at least bold,
> italics and headings. And HTML has become a very common
> medium for formatted
> text, and not just for English. Yes, they have failures in
> complex situations
> that haven't had much work in them; no, not every font has or
> will have every
> language in it. And if you want Adobe Acrobat, you know where
> to find it; web
> browsing was never intended to give full control over fonts
> and display to
> the creator of the documents; it was intended to give control
> over _meaning_.

I think that pretty much sums up peoples expectations on web browsers, which
is a shame. There are no technical reasons for why css/html4/xhtml can not
produce every bit as high quality as any other page layout format.

Also, what is it with people and the lack of interest in using fonts. Do
people actually think that you only need one font, possibly in bold, italic
and regular style? Do they think that other languages, e.g. Chinese, do not
use styles? Text should be beautiful to look at too!

em2 Solutions
Michael Jansson

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