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Chrome joins the WOFF party for Web fonts

A new effort to promote Web-based fonts has won the support of Google. Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera, and several type design firms already are on board.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Google Chrome

Mozilla helped to bring it to fruition. Microsoft and Opera joined to sponsor its standardization. And now Google has decided to add support for WOFF, the Web Open Font Format, to its Chrome Browser.

"It appears that we have decided to implement WOFF in Chromium," said Google Chrome programmer Adam Langley on the Chromium issue tracker Friday. He said he'd be writing the support in a way that converts WOFF to TrueType fonts for internal handling by the browser.

WOFF lets browsers download typefaces associated with Web pages, letting Web designers customize their sites' appearances. Currently, most Web sites use a small set of fonts that it's safe to assume are installed already on people's computers.

Some object to the hodge-podge of fonts WOFF could bring to readers' eyes. But designers like to make their products distinctive, and typography is one mechanism for doing so, as evidenced by the diversity of styles in magazines.

WOFF isn't the first Web-font effort, but it's got allies not just among four of the five major browsers, but also at many major font design companies, an important consideration given the copyright and licensing issues associated with typeface licensing. Another WOFF advantage is that it can package a subset of a font's characters, speeding Web page loading.

The World Wide Web Consortium is in the process of standardizing WOFF.

There's currently no version deadline for WOFF support in Chrome. As Langley pointed out himself last year, "Fonts are hard."