Re: "Interoperability is getting better" ... What does that mean?

From: Jukka K. Korpela <>
Date: Wed, 09 Jan 2013 11:03:28 +0200

2013-01-09 2:55, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:

> The benefit of doing such a comparison is that we then get to
> count both the HTML page *plus* all the extra fonts that is included in
> the "romanized Singhala file". Thus, we get a more *real* basis for
> comparing the relative size of the two pages.

Not really. I don’t want to comment “romanized Singhala” any more, but I
can’t leave a different fallacy uncommented.

When comparing sizes of web pages, it is clearly not sufficient to
compare just HTML pages only. It is not uncommon to have just a few
kilobytes of HTML but with loads on JavaScript and images, totalling a
megabyte or more. This makes it relatively irrelevant whether some
characters occupy one byte or two bytes. (Besides, HTML often gets
automatically compressed for transmission.)

But if we count font files as well, we should count them in all
alternatives being compared. Although you can, in principle, write e.g.
a web page in Sinhala by simply providing the text content, sitting back
and expecting browsers to render it using whatever fonts they prefer
using, that’s a very unrealistic approach in practice. It would work for
English (though few web content providers do that – they mostly want to
set fonts), but for Sinhala, it would mean that a very large part of
users (possibly the majority) would not see the Sinhala letters. The
reason is that their computers lack any font that contains them. (Well,
not the only reason, but the most common one.)

So in order to make (almost) all visitors see the content OK, the author
of a Sinhala page should probably provide a downloadable font, via
@font-face, that contains Sinhala letters (as a Unicode encoded font).
Another option is to link to a font that the visitor can download and
install, and this is what e.g. the site of the Parliament of Sri Lanka does, but the more modern way of using
@font-face is much smoother and does not disturb the visitor with
technicalities (and, besides, not all users can install fonts).

And, to be fair, Unicode-encoded fonts that contain Sinhala letters tend
to be considerably larger than 8-bit ad-hoc encoded fonts. Then again,
these days, size does not matter that much, and a downloadable font gets
cached, and a Unicode-encoded font typically contains a much richer
repertoire of characters, so that characters from different scripts
(like Sinhala, English, and Common-script characters) have been designed
to fit together.

Received on Wed Jan 09 2013 - 03:04:48 CST

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