Google’s Chrome browser plans to jump on the Web Open Font Format bandwagon. A note in the Chromium project’s bug trackersays that “it appears that we have decided to implement WOFF in Chromium.” Work on adding WOFF support to Chromium is already underway, though there’s no timetable for when the new features will make it into a shipping version of Google Chrome.
The WOFF was conceived by Mozilla as an easier way for web designers to include fonts in their designs. The idea is to let web authors include WOFF fonts in their page designs by linking to the font files in their code the same way they link to images and other downloadable files.
WOFF attempts to address some of the problems with CSS 3′s @font-face rule, which allows for downloadable fonts, but says nothing about the format of the fonts. As we’ve noted before, using @font-face can lead to radically different results in different browsers. Last year popular website Boing Boing launched a redesign using CSS3’s @font-face rule, but ran into problems when things didn’t render correctly on older machines.
Another concern is page load times. Because WOFF has built-in compression, adding extra WOFF fonts to your pages shouldn’t slow them down as much as a traditional OpenType or TrueType font file.
Since WOFF support was added to Firefox (in version 3.6), Opera and Microsoft have both pledged their support and the format has been submitted to the W3C for consideration as a standard.
The IE9 beta doesn’t yet support WOFF, but Microsoft is an official sponsor of the W3C proposal and theIEBlog has written about WOFF so we hope to see WOFF support before IE9 is finished.
With Google Chrome onboard, Apple’s Safari may soon be the only currently shipping browser without WOFF support.
Perhaps even more important than browser support is the fact that font foundries are getting behind the new spec. WOFF fonts aren’t secure, so the format won’t be used by foundries wanting to regulate the use of their work. However, over 30 major type foundries — including Adobe, House Industries, Hoefler & Frere-Jones and ITC, LinoType — are already endorsing the format.
While WOFF doesn’t solve all the problems of web fonts, it’s a huge step in the right direction. With Firefox, Opera, IE and now Chrome all supporting WOFF, designers may soon be able to add just about any font to any webpage.