Cufon vs. WOFF

fontsquirrel's picture

Would like to get some professional opinions on Cufón. Specifically, I'm wondering if you see it in a similar light as WOFF. IE: It is a web-only format and can't be installed on a desktop machine. I'm starting to see some designers offering Cufón support in their pro licenses.

So, would you equate the two to be similar? Can you see any downside to Cufón from an IP perspective?

The only downside I can see, is that 1) It is a text format and therefore easy to edit out domain links. 2) It is easily downloaded and installed on your own website. But it is impossible (from what I can tell) to turn back into an OTF. I can already turn a WOFF back into an OTF.

Why or why don't you support Cufón?

Randy's picture

As a maker of fonts and designer of websites, Cufon works for me.

#1 Convenient for designers
Easy to set up and style. Cross-browser compatible.

#2 Enough obfuscation
In other words, its not the naked font file. Yes it can be altered and re-used online. But their are at least enough steps that it's an annoyance to do the wrong thing, which clarifies it as "the wrong thing" imo.

I've found it to be easier than sifr, but sometimes get a flash of unstyled content (so it's not ideal). Ultimately this is a work around, but a work-around Im comfortable with since Cufon is a right-now solution to a problem WOFF may solve in a year or two.

Stephen Coles's picture

One more possible downside: it requires JavaScript. And other bugs & issues.

If I was a type maker planning for the future I would steer my font production resources to a format that is bound to be the standard of the future. That format is WOFF.

apankrat's picture

I think Ethan is more interested in the IP perspective.

From the technical perspective Cufon delivers the best rendering quality between all other available options I tested. It also renders consistently between the browsers and OSes. If the Cufon is used sparingly, for headers and such, then the rendering quality is all that really matters, and so it's the best option at the moment if the licensing permits it.

Christopher Slye's picture

Cufón really isn't a format -- it's a system, or technique, or hack, or something.

I've always thought it was a little weird that a font has to be uploaded to the Cufón site in order to be transformed into the required JSON file. You are technically giving the font to someone else to do this, which has IP significance.

Of course (and not IP related), WOFF (or EOT or raw web fonts) is much better for accessibility and text selection.

And it all comes down to whether the foundry from which the font came allows either Cufón embedding or WOFF. One or the other will not be useful at all if it's not allowed for the font you want to use.

Richard Fink's picture

@stephen coles

If I was a type maker planning for the future I would steer my font production resources to a format that is bound to be the standard of the future. That format is WOFF.

WOFF is not a font format. It's a transport wrapper for any sfnt font. It does not and never will require any type designer to "steer " their "font production resources to one thing or another".
At worst, that's a lie, at best, misleading.
And outside of Firefox - whose own Jonathan Kew was one of the co-creators of WOFF - there is, as yet, no indication that WOFF will be the standard transport wrapper for sfnt fonts in the future. Tell me, Stephen, in what ways is the result to be had from WOFF superior to that of EOT? Tell me, please.
An email and blog post campaign expressing "support" for WOFF was launched as a stall tactic to provide some kind of plausible and defensible cover for delaying licensing for web use outside of hosted services. That's where we're at.
This has been made quite clear on this very forum.
I'm just calling it the way it is, Stephen.
I don't want *you* pissing on my leg and telling me it's raining, either.
Cut the crap, I'm tired of hearing it. (And I say this with the greatest respect.)

There is now cross-browser support for @font-face in all the major browsers today using TTF, OTF, and EOT.
If you don't want to play on the web, just say so. It's OK. But people aren't idiots, and as soon as they get around to checking out the facts they will know something is amiss. What you say just doesn't add up and people will figure out what's up.

Sorry for going OT but enough is enough.

Rich

John Hudson's picture

Rich: And outside of Firefox - whose own Jonathan Kew was one of the co-creators of WOFF - there is, as yet, no indication that WOFF will be the standard transport wrapper for sfnt fonts in the future.

At worst, that's a lie, at best, misleading. :)

If -- and I recognise that it is if, not when -- a W3C working group on web fonts is convened according to the draft charter, ‘The conformance requirement will be that WOFF must be supported and other formats may be supported.’ [Chris Lilley, W3C] I'm not suggesting that this implies that WOFF will necessarily be the standard transport wrapper for web fonts, but that it is disingenuous to suggest that Firefox provides the only indication that this will be the case.

There is now cross-browser support for @font-face in all the major browsers today using TTF, OTF, and EOT.

You have a different concept of cross-browser support than most font developers, I think. That's like saying there was cross-platform font support c.1989 with Windows Type 1 PS fonts and Mac Type 1 PS fonts, despite the fact that these were actually entirely different, incompatible file structures. Serving different formats to different browsers is not what I call cross-browser support; it's multi-browser support, sure, but not cross-browser support.

Stop dumping on the font makers, Rich. If the non-IE browsers gave any indication at all of supporting an EOT-compatible format, font makers would follow that lead. As it is, those browser makers have made it very clear that they are not interested in CWT, whereas Microsoft are making it pretty clear that they are interested in WOFF.

You might legitimately berate font makers for lacking your sense of urgency about any of this, but perhaps if the web without web fonts were somehow not working it would be easier to get excited about what promises to be a lot of bad typography. Pass me a Verdana.

fontsquirrel's picture

I honestly don't get the excitement over WOFF. I can convert it to a desktop font easily. Its greatest strength is that it zip compresses the font. What does a little meta-data though do in real life? Just asking...

Christopher Slye's picture

Rich, I'm with John. I'm perplexed by the tone of your last post, and it's misleading. As John said, the Fonts Working Group charter is a strong indication that WOFF is a fait accompli. And there simply isn't cross-browser support for @font-face -- in that there is no possible way to use it in a web page, by itself, and have complete interoperability among the major browsers.

I honestly don't get the excitement over WOFF. I can convert it to a desktop font easily. Its greatest strength is that it zip compresses the font. What does a little meta-data though do in real life?

IMO, the best thing WOFF has going for it is that it's not a desktop format (yet). It gives foundries a legal foundation to prevent or prosecute abuse. The source of the "excitement" about it is likely that it is the best chance of having an interoperable font format to use with @font-face.

(Yes, WOFF is not a "format", but that word is a reasonable stand-in for most people.)

Richard Fink's picture

@john hudson

Re: future support of WOFF -
disingenuous to suggest that Firefox provides the only indication that this will be the case.
Didn't say that Firefox's support is the only indication. But there are counter-indications. Ralf Herrmann has done some looking into this and has reported that no other major browser maker is currently considering WOFF support.
If you think there is some urgency on the part of browser makers who already support TTF/OTF and in some cases SVG - why would there be? Do you think WOFF will be supported in IE9? If it isn't, that pushes ubiquitous WOFF support ten years down the road.
If the current draft charter is adopted, now, that would be a strong indication - a done deal, really, and ultimately all browsers would end up supporting it. But when? And how long will it take those browsers to propagate? It will take the working group a year just to make the recommendation.
But all of this is irrelevant. So what?
What will have changed that would matter to me or any web developer today or for the foreseeable future?

Stop dumping on the font makers, Rich.
If that's how you wish to paint me, that's your call. If you truly see me that way, I guess I'll have to live with it. Have I ever "dumped" on you? Or Christopher? Or Thomas Phinney? Or many, many others that I have crossed swords with here? Nothing I've ever said or done rates that statement. These are highly emotional times, and if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
But I'm tired of being lied to, and I'm tired of staying silent. Coles has to be lying because he can't be so stupid as to actually believe what he is saying. It's like saying toy manufacturers should gear their Christmas production to the kind of wrapping paper people will be using. It's preposterous. It's a talking point, pure and simple. Sorry.
(I do understand your intense empathy, though. It's an admirable quality, but in this case I feel it's misplaced. If Coles can't defend his own position maybe he should just keep quiet.)
If my tone seems to you out of line, sorry, but I'm tired of this BS about WOFF being a pivotal, critical, enabling technology that simply must be in place before things can proceed further.
Except in Firefox 3.6, it enables nothing but sloth, delay and, it would seem, misrepresentation.
If you or anybody else doesn't want to sell fonts for use on the web, for the umpteenth time: it's perfectly OK with me. I do not mind one single bit. Your fonts, your choice.

@christopher

As John said, the Fonts Working Group charter is a strong indication that WOFF is a fait accompli.
It isn't approved yet. But again, so what? Converting an TTF or an OTF is still a simple after-step. It's basically a zip file, for heavens sake. A smart zip file geared towards font data but the same is true for EOT and we already have that in 60%+ of all the browsers out there.

gotta go - but since the topic of Cufon has been totally ripped to shreds I'll come back and clarify "cross-browser".

John Hudson's picture

Rich: Didn't say that Firefox's support is the only indication.

???

Previously: And outside of Firefox … there is, as yet, no indication that WOFF will be the standard transport wrapper for sfnt fonts in the future. [My emphasis.]

Sorry to be such a close reader, but I don't know any other way to make sense of what people write.

John Hudson's picture

If my tone seems to you out of line, sorry, but I'm tired of this BS about WOFF being a pivotal, critical, enabling technology that simply must be in place before things can proceed further.

Is anyone saying that WOFF must be in place before things can proceed further? What I hear people saying -- what I've also said myself -- is that WOFF seems to offer the best possibility of true cross-browser compatibility, based on what the browser makers are saying and doing. In other words, its the format we can reasonably expect to be supported in most if not all future browsers, and that's the kind of cross-browser compatibility we want. Perhaps this seems strange to you, but you didn't develop fonts through the pre-OpenType period when every format and platform required different binaries, a situation I think many font makers would like to avoid in web fonts. Sure, the actual making of different wrappers deliverables is relatively simple, but multiple delivery formats means multiple customer support scenarios. This is not to say that we won't suck it up in the short-term, making both WOFF and EOT-compatible fonts as customers request (which is, of course, exactly what FontShop are doing, so I'm not sure why you're beating up on Stewf). The point about WOFF is that it gives both font makers and browser makers a common goal to steer towards, and that is a Good Thing, much to be preferred to everyone running in different directions for years to come.

Richard Fink's picture

You have a different concept of cross-browser support than most font developers, I think.

After a night's sleep this seems like more paint. Fink just doesn't have it right, poor fellow.
Look, let's skip it because over the next eight weeks exactly what level of interoperability exists and what font designers need to provide to support @font-face cross-browser, as the implementations exists will be crystal clear.

Is anyone saying that WOFF must be in place before things can proceed further?

No, what's been said by some is that WOFF *must* be in place before *they* will proceed further. Yes they are. And what WOFF actually is, is being misrepresented.

The history:
WOFF came about because the retail font industry put up a stink about raw TTF/OTF files, turned to EOT, talks fell through on EOT. A wrapper similar in effect to EOT was designed that ultimately was named WOFF. The Firefox guys turned their back on EOT, and decided to implement WOFF as an alternative. We can consult the complete W3C fonts mailing list to see if that's an accurate summation. I believe it is.
WOFF had nothing to do with cross-browser compatibility.

We already have that:

@font-face{
font-family:'somefont';
src: url(somefont.eot);
src: url(somefont.eot);url(somefont.ttf);
}

Will deliver exactly the same font to Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, IE 6, 7, 8 and, if the CSS3 spec is any guide, IE9 as well. You may not want to believe it, but it's so.
If OTFs remain problematical for the foreseeable future, that's just a fact. If type designers want to ignore it. OK by me. But it's the way it is and it has nothing to do with WOFF. It has to do with Windows and Internet Explorer.

RE: Providing EOT and WOFF files:
(which is, of course, exactly what FontShop are doing, so I'm not sure why you're beating up on Stewf).

Responded to you on this here:http://typophile.com/node/66933?page=1#comment-401176

Lastly, and keeping with this, I think it's Stephen Coles turn to explain what he meant by:
If I was a type maker planning for the future I would steer my font production resources to a format that is bound to be the standard of the future. That format is WOFF.
What *did* you mean, Stephen?

Regards,

Rich

fontsquirrel's picture

Don't know whether or not to believe it, but have it on good authority that WOFF may become an installable format for Mac. Appears to be easier to implement system-wide than in-browser...

Still curious about Cufon, but I think this thread is too far gone.

John Hudson's picture

Rich, your potted history is mostly correct. The part I take issue with is the characterisation that the ‘retail font industry’ first ‘turned to EOT’ before ‘talks fell through’ on that format. It would be easy to come to that view based on the W3C list discussion, but of course that wasn't the only discussion taking place at the time. The number of font vendors actively supporting an EOT-compatible solution was fairly small, and the .webfont spec development that became WOFF long preceded the evident failure of ‘EOT-Lite’ to gain traction. Indeed, one could say that by providing a broadly acceptable alternative to EOT-Lite, the introduction of .webfont/WOFF provided the means by which the non-IE browsers, especially FireFox, could easily resist pressure to implement an EOT-compatible solution. As you know, I was one of the relatively few font makers vocally supporting an EOT-compatible option, and I don't think it is the case that ‘talks fell through on EOT’ but that the talks came to a different result than the one you wanted.

.... Will deliver exactly the same font to Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, IE 6, 7, 8 and, if the CSS3 spec is any guide, IE9 as well. You may not want to believe it, but it's so.

I've never denied that it is so. Yes, if you serve two different files to different browsers, one of which is a naked desktop font, then you can get the same typeface displayed on all those different browsers. And two different files is better than, say, five different files, but since one of those files is something that most commercial font vendors are not licensing for web serving and are not going to license for web serving, this hardly seems to me like a solution. If you want, you can make the case that serving multiple file types constitutes some kind of cross-browser compatibility -- and I could even accept that case with the caveat that it isn't ideal cross-browser compatibility --, but if web font licenses won't permit one half of that compatibility then it's de facto incompatible.

So let's leave IE and EOT aside for a moment. As you do not tire of pointing out -- and nor should you --, this is something that already works and will continue to work. WOFF is what is needed on the non-IE browsers (which thankfully have faster and more widespread upgrade cycles than IE). WOFF is where the browser makers who refuse to support EOT and the font makers who refuse to license naked desktop fonts for the web can come together.

apankrat's picture

> *Still curious about Cufon...*

You may want to skim through this thread - http://typophile.com/node/66933

Richard Fink's picture

@johnhudson

but if web font licenses won't permit one half of that compatibility then it's de facto incompatible.
You are redefining "compatible" to mean what's convenient for you to have it mean. Plus, your redefinition rests on a faulty assumption: that the only fonts that matter are the "retail" fonts that are currently unlicensed for web use.
I can only speak for myself but I, personally, don't want to use the fonts that I think you have in mind - these fonts that are "incompatible by license". Even if support for WOFF were universal, I have absolutely no reason to believe they would be made available on terms that I could or would accept. The divides are very great. Plus, I've bought enough of them to know that they fall about as far short of looking good on screen as the freely licensed fonts. Sometimes moreso.
I might not have any choice but to accept an unfavorable EULA when I need a program like Word or Photoshop - I'll have to wait for changes in the legal system for that - but that's not the case with fonts.
There are thousands of freely licensed fonts available. And there are now font designers who are offering licenses on terms that make sense for web designers.
For now, I will use what I can and what I can use will improve and there will be a greater variety over time.
The six to ten years that the "Wait For WOFF" philosophy entails is plenty of time to make the fonts you have in mind today, irrelevant. If you see any other outcome, well, just remember that the human capacity for self-delusion is truly infinite. In retrospect, I can't believe some of the stuff I was absolutely convinced would happen despite a huge amount of evidence indicating the opposite, right in front of my face.

WOFF is where the browser makers who refuse to support EOT and the font makers who refuse to license naked desktop fonts for the web can come together.
Once again - come together about what? What are the price points? What are the terms?
It's so far down the road, who cares?

John Nagle's picture

On April 10, 2010, Microsoft decided to support WOFF, and it will be in IE 9.

Right now, @font-face works in just about all current browsers. It works in IE back to at least IE 6. It works in Firefox 3.6, Opera, Chrome, and Safari. It works on the iPad. It works in obscure browsers like SeaMonkey and Avant. If you provide fonts in WOFF, EOT, SVG, and TrueType, and the few lines of CSS needed to link to all the font source files, it just works.

Make up a page with all four file formats available (fontsquirrel.com has a generator for all the formats if necessary) and run it through a multiple-browser viewer (http://browsershots.org) to check this for yourself. (Don't ask for too many browsers at once; there's a daily quota for free use.)

Yes, it doesn't work in a few browsers - Iceape, Epiphany, Konquerer, Seamonkey, Netscape, and Kazehakase. You got a problem with that?

Richard Fink's picture

@john nagle

>On April 10, 2010, Microsoft decided to support WOFF, and it will be in IE 9.

This seems to be information that only you possess. Where did you read or hear it?

Information on the IE Blog, which is usually the authoritative source for information like this has been conspicuously noncommital about WOFF in IE9. There could be many reasons why they might want to postpone it to IE 10.
In addition, I pressed both Simon Daniels and Sylvain Galineau of Microsoft on the issue and got nothin', nada, bubkis.

So how do you know? (BTW - this was incorrectly reported in Wikipedia based on the same IE Blog post I alluded to earlier.)

Rich

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