[linux-elitists] A modest proposal to web designers of the world (was Re: Site feedback: fonts too small)

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Thu May 17 12:40:16 PDT 2001

on Thu, May 17, 2001 at 10:32:42AM -0700, Heather (star@betelgeuse.starshine.org) wrote:
> > > I don't know what I have that might be wierd, but under Red Hat 7.1 +
> > > Ximian 1.4, my Mozilla expereince on economist.com seems to be quite
> > > pleasant. The font sizes on their home page range from the headlines
> > > (font face="verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif" size="+1"), which are
> > > fairly large to lead-ins for their lead articles (font
> > > face="verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif" size="-1") to the lead-ins for
> > > the rest of the articles (font face="verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif"
> > > size=-2).
> > 
> > Well, then, how does RH's X fonts configuration (I've also heard
> > reasonably good things about Mandrake, IIRC) that's different from the
> > rest of the GNU/Linux distros?  In particular, my experience on Debian
> > has been that web fonts tend to be pretty well fscked.   If some of the
> > GNU/Linux distros have worked this out, why can't the rest share the
> > wealth?
> What's the big point about fonts, (and I know you licensing fans will 
> appreciate this), is that most of them are Non-Free.

Note on fonts.

    Font _desings_ -- the actual shape of characters -- is not covered
    by copyright.

    Font _generation programs_ -- the software hints that effect shaping
    and smoothing -- are copyrightable.

Since TT fonts are actually programs with shaping hints and such,
they're covered by copyright.

What Heather says of fonts is in large part true -- the programs are
covered by copyright, and most are non-free in nature, either as
shareware or simply proprietary IP.  The story of font design,
remuneration, and appropriation is contentious amongst font designers.

The problem is that this model of font distribution is that it assumes
that font rendering is done at some central point -- a printing location
or design shop.  The Web's pretty much turned this idea on its head
along with much else.  The social response lags technology as usual.

Some reading.

    Verdana & Georgia:

    Web Fonts:

    The Best Faces for the Screen

    Be afraid, be very afraid...a proposal to specify fonts for
    automatic download from webpages....

Specific MSFT font information and licensing:


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org
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