Microsoft backs Web Open Font format

Microsoft has thrown its weight behind the Web Open Font Format, bringing the promise of rich typography on the web a step closer to realisation.

Microsoft backs Web Open Font format

As it stands designers are limited in the fonts they can use on webpages by the fact that the same font must be installed on the visiting machine.

This restricts designers to using a number of widely distributed fonts, or, alternatively, using images instead of text which brings a number of problems, including the fact that this “text” is invisible to search engines.

CSS allows different font files to be used in a page, but the major browsers all support a different range of font technologies. The Web Open Font Format aims to get around this problem by converting TrueType/OpenType/Open Font files to the WOFF format for web use.

Once decoded by the visiting machine the WOFF font should display identically to the original font from which it was created. Of course, in order to make this technique make WOFF compresses the font data, ensuring it doesn’t significantly slow page loads, and supports the inclusion of metadata specifying type designer and licensing information – which should pacify the foundries wary of giving away their fonts away for free.

The Web Open Font Format has already been backed by Mozilla and a number of font foundries, but Internet Explorer’s continuing dominance means that Microsoft’s support remains essential if the technology is to take off.

There’s no word on whether IE9 will support WOFF, but Microsoft has been making increasing efforts to support new Web standards – including elements of HTML 5.

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