CSS3 Fonts Module briefing/dialogue pre-TypeCon

John Hudson's picture

John Daggett from Mozilla, who is the editor of the CSS3 Fonts Module, will be in Los Angeles for a few days preceding this year's TypeCon conference. I'm working with John and the TypeCon organisers to hold a briefing/dialogue session on web typography in CSS3 on Wednesday 18 August, at the conference venue in LA.

The purpose of this session is for John to explain the new typographic features in CSS3 — including access to a large number of OpenType Layout features — and to get feedback from font developers and from typographically aware web designers. This is a good opportunity for members of the type community to help improve the CSS3 Fonts Module standard. Previous criticisms of the draft standard from font developers have noted that the terminology used in the specification differs from that commonly used by type designers and typographers, and hence is confusing, so one thing that could be achieved at this session is review of that terminology. As other browser makers will be present in LA for the preceding W3C Web Fonts Working Group meeting, there may also be an opportunity to discuss CSS3 implementations

I'm currently thinking in terms of a half-day session, most likely in the afternoon, but this plan has not been finalised. In order to determine logistics for this event, the TypeCon organisers need to get a sense of how many people to expect. If you are interested in attending this session, please indicate so in this thread or, if you prefer, contact me at tiro[at]tiro[dot]com.

Please note: this session is not for discussion of web font formats or licensing. There will be at least one session devoted to web fonts during the main conference programme. This session is focused on CSS3 typography.

Please also note that this session will take place at the same time as some of the pre-conference workshops. Please be aware of a possible conflict if you have signed up for a workshop or are planning to.

The intention is for this session to be free, but for planning purposes we really do need to know in advance if you are planning to attend.

Si_Daniels's picture

Where do we sign up? I don't see this on the TypeCon site.

ChrisLilley's picture

I can certainly be there.

John Hudson's picture

There's no formal sign-up Si. It's an informal event piggy-backing on the TypeCon conference. Just indicate here or by email to me if you plan to attend. We just need to get an estimate of the number of people to expect so that the conference organisers can determine how large a room will be needed.

Vlad Levantovsky's picture

Thank you John H. and John D. for organizing this discussion! I will definitely be there.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Just indicate here or by email to me if you plan to attend.

Okay, I'm in. Sergey and John Berry too, probably.

Cheers, Si

billdavis's picture

John(s) - I'll be there, looking forward to this discussion!


Richard Fink's picture

I'll be there.

tamye's picture

Anyone who plans to attend - please email or message John Hudson and I so we can work with the conference hotel to add more sleeping rooms to our discounted room block to cover the earlier part of the week. This is urgent - we need to make sure we have rooms available ASAP to accommodate attendees of this briefing.

abattis's picture

I would like to attend this session :)

ebensorkin's picture

I would like to attend this session.

hrant's picture

Please count me in too - thanks.


peter_bain's picture

Sounds worth attending.

David Jonathan Ross's picture

I'd like to attend as well. Thanks!

Richard Rutter's picture

Gah! Would have loved to attend this, but sadly won't be able to make it out from the UK until Thursday. Will there be a summary posted online anywhere?

John Hudson's picture

Will there be a summary posted online anywhere?

There are no plans for this, but if someone wants to volunteer to take notes....

raph's picture

Unless there is some kind of logistics problem, I plan on being there, and probably around three others from the Google Font API team as well. It certainly sounds like there's a lot of interesting stuff to talk about!

dberlow's picture

It's just a shame, considering the audience and the time of type, that it sounds like a bunch of disorganized free-for-alls when it could be sweet music for the audience:

What Now?
Reports and conditions from along the trail:

Web Type Tool Maker, Adam Twardoch (FontLab)

Web Graphic Design Tool Maker, Christopher Slye (Adobe)

Web Font Server I, Bryan Mason, (Typekit)

Web Font Server II, Bill Davis (Ascender, WebType)

Web Content Maker, Roger Black (RB Inc.),

Web Browser Maker, Simon Daniels (Microsoft)

4:00 Drover, John Hudson (Tiro Typeworks)

From the front on the future:

Type designers of tomorrow, Tal & Erik (LetterError & Type Supply),

The web text rex next, Raph Levien (Google)

WG of W3C, Vladimir Levantovsky, et al (Monotype Imaging)

Management tools of tomorrow, Tom Phinney (Extensis)

Fastest moving Browser Maker, John Dagget, (Mozzila)

5:15 Drover, John Hudson (Tiro Typeworks)

Just about all the same people... but with purpose.


Richard Fink's picture


Richard - FWIW - my plan is to take notes, photos, and record what is said, too - the last thing happening only if nobody minds.


A more freewheeling approach than what you describe is hardly "without purpose". However, I think one-day conferences of the kind you describe - focused exclusively on type and typography - will probably be in substantial demand in a few years.


John Hudson's picture


a) John Daggett won't be around for the TypeCon conference; he's coming to LA for the W3C WG meeting on the Tuesday, and leaving on the Thursday;

b) there's an opportunity for people who are interested in providing input on a specific part of the CSS3 standard to meet with him on the Wednesday;

c) its a technical meeting, not a dog and pony show.

What TypeCon are organising for the conference itself in terms of web fonts is in preliminary planning stages. The programme on the website suggests that I'm going to give a short presentation on WOFF, which was news to me and, I'm pretty sure, not the case. I suspect Tal and Erik will be giving that presentation, and that Chris Lilley from the W3C, who is not mentioned in the online programme, will be talking about the W3C web font standard. I expect the format of these sessions will become a lot more organised and structured once the various participants have an opportunity to discuss them and make a plan.

I think business cards saying ‘Drover’ would be pretty swell.

dberlow's picture

a) Big deal.
b) Email it.
c) I wouldn't understand.

People are coming a long way and they've waited a long time. Don't blow it again.


John Hudson's picture

David, web fonts are explicitly not germane to the pre-conference CSS3 session that this thread is about.

I'm as concerned as you are about the main conference web font sessions, which so far seem ill-defined and uncoordinated. Hmm. Maybe they need a drover.

dberlow's picture

>...web fonts are explicitly not germane to the pre-conference CSS3 session

Lol, you can say that again. I understand there are three sessions John, the point is general; the people who know are all there, from near and far, and there are a LOT of questions unanswered from here and there, recently and from the past.

The history of most of these sessions, CSS or not, is tinted by post-panel depression, as in no one can answer the questions after, in fact most people don't understand much more than when they arrived.


John Hudson's picture

Bryan Mason from TypeKit is apparently going to be moderating the TypeCon web fonts panel. I'm sure he would appreciate receiving from you any questions that you might like asked. That's no guarantee that you'll get an answer, let alone an answer that you like, but as you say the people who know -- or whom we hope know -- will (mostly) be there.

If there are questions you have for John Daggett and other CSS3 session participants, I'll be happy to field them for you.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Do we have a time for this yet? I need to book my flight today, and I don't want to miss this....


Si_Daniels's picture

Arrive Tuesday night - so you don't miss the WOFF party...


John Hudson's picture

Thomas, I've not heard back from John Daggett yet, but I'm 90% certain that this will be in the afternoon on the Wednesday, e.g. 2:00 to 5:00 pm. I'll finalise this with Tamye tomorrow.

Christopher Slye's picture

David, your concerns are valid. It's helpful that you're explaining them here. Perhaps we can try to focus the panel discussion on topics and information that will make things more clear, not less. (No guarantee, though!)

I hope Bryan is a good moderator. :) It's a critical job.

dberlow's picture

Thanks Chris.

To Christalize the headline issue as I see it: we now have the TT font format pared down to the capabilities of the T1 format circa 1985, being stuffed into a 2010 wrapper with no improvements on anything helpful to users, (if you don't understand that, just look carefully).

I think we'll need more than bread and circuses to get out of the swamp. It'd be interesting to hear what people think the solutions are.


John Hudson's picture

David: ...the TT font format pared down to the capabilities of the T1 format circa 1985...

Is that the T1 fonts with 16-bit and 32-bit character encoding, up to 65536 glyph per font, smart layout features for non-Latin scripts, and coming up -- the focus of the CSS3 Font Module session -- smart layout features for rich typography? I don't remember those T1 fonts.

Si_Daniels's picture

If all you care about is the rendering control (and not encoding and layout features), then the big advantage of TrueType was that you could get relatively consistent results in terms of bi-level bitmap patterns regardless of the OS and TrueType rasterizer - whereas Adobe was in the habit of "improving" the output of the PostScript rasterizer. Obviously that changed big time with OS X, Freetype and ClearType.

hrant's picture

OSX being the biggest problem in terms of dumbing things down.


Richard Fink's picture

I love it when you guys talk technical. I'm a one-click kinda guy, myself.

So John, is this a definite for Wed. between 2PM and 5PM?



bryanmason's picture

Three or four of us from Typekit will be there for your session on Wed. Thanks for doing it.

Very helpful. For the panel section, with so many folks on the stage, my hope is to skip a lot of intro/background material and get right to meaty questions/dialogue.

So - do send me the questions you'd like to hear folks answer: bryan@typekit.com


hrant's picture

So has the day & time been nailed down?


John Hudson's picture

I'm just waiting final confirmation from the TypeCon organisers. It will definitely be the Wednesday, 18 August, and in the afternoon. Probably starting at 2:00, but I will confirm that a.s.a.p.

John Hudson's picture


The CSS3 Font Module pre-conference session will take place on Wednesday 18 August, beginning at 2:00pm. We will officially end at 5:00pm, but if people want to stay longer to keep a discussion going, that should be possible.

The session will take place at the TypeCon conference hotel.

The room will be posted on the day.

There is no fee to attend this session, and now that the room size is confirmed there is no need to register interest in attending. Drop-ins welcome.

Sponsored by Tiro Typeworks. Thanks to SOTA for making this possible.

Richard Fink's picture

Much thanks for this. A great idea.

John Hudson's picture


The session will take place in the ‘Westside’ room on the plaza level of the conference hotel.

John Daggett will begin the session with an approx. 45 minute presentation on the CSS3 Font Module, covering

  • CSS3 Font spec overview
  • basic font properties (family name, style matching, size)
  • @font-face mechanism
  • layout feature support
  • testing and conformance
  • font security issues
  • ideas beyond CSS3 Fonts

Following this, there will be open discussion on these and related topics. If you already have a question you would like to ask or a topic you want to discuss, you can post it here so that John will have some idea what to expect. I've already told him that I want to discuss possible CSS mechanisms for ppem-specific outline selection.

ChrisLilley's picture

And for people wanting some reading on the plane, to get up to speed and/or find all the tricky problems,

CSS Fonts Module Level 3
Editor's Draft 10 August 2010

hrant's picture

Thank you. It's now on my Kindle.
(Yes, I just wanted to say that... :-) I love that little thing.)


Thomas Phinney's picture

Hrant, at the risk of topic drift....

How did you go about capturing and repurposing that for the Kindle? I have not yet found a simple way to do it while keeping the graphics intact (emailing to my Kindle gets the file converted without the graphics). Maybe it's just because I haven't figured out the MobiPocket Creator software yet.



Richard Fink's picture

You guys are too advanced for me. I printed a double-sided booklet at Kinkos!

hrant's picture

Thomas, I tried a few things, and only one worked: SelectAll, Copy-Paste into Word, then send them the Word file* to convert. Except for the header/footer garbage which you have to ignore it works quite well. The page above is an easy one, but even something like this
looks great after a page or two of garbage.

* I use .doc, haven't tried .docx yet.

Of course if all else fails one can "print" a PDF from the browser and just use that, but you know the Kindle limitations with PDFs (although it's still the best reader for PDFs).


Thomas Phinney's picture

Thanks, Hrant. That was on my list of things to try, but it was just one of a large array of options.

(Side note: I was honestly astonished at the quality of Kindle text rendering of OpenType CFF (PostScript outlines) in PDF. It is the best greyscale text rendering I've ever seen. I'm curious whose rasterizer they're using, whether it's one I've seen before.)



hrant's picture

It's FreeType. But the quality comes from the paper-like display.
And you should see the new iteration - already out in the DX, and
coming out in 11 days in the smaller one, which they announced
2 days after I bought mine... although I got a good deal on it, plus
I get to use it during TypeCon! Also, I don't like the new keyboard.

BTW, this is a great place to be:


k.l.'s picture

Hrant -- It's FreeType. But the quality comes from the paper-like display.

This does not make sense. According to this article, the resolution is 150ppi, with 16 shades of grey, which is not so terribly much. And the FreeType samples provided over here look pretty impressive. So at best it is a combination of both.

hrant's picture

I didn't mean to denigrate FreeType. But without the eInk (way beyond mere resolution) it's just another good renderer. If you're coming to TypeCon (or ATypI) I'll gladly show you (and of course anybody else).

BTW, since that article:
- The DX's price has gone down to $379.
- The new firmware (2.5) does PDFs much better.

Oh wait, this is not a Kindle thread... (Sorry, I'll stop now.)


Thomas Phinney's picture

I've got both a Kindle DX and a Kindle 2, actually. Also happy to compare rendering and such with folks at the coming conferences. It would be interesting to compare the same PDF on a Sony Reader or a Nook.

Though honestly I don't expect to read a lot of PDFs on my Kindle....


Si_Daniels's picture


"New Proprietary Screen Technology - Faster Page Turns, New and Improved Fonts
Kindle’s new, high-contrast display is further optimized with Amazon’s proprietary waveform and font technology to make pages turn faster and fonts sharper. Waveform is a series of electronic pulses that move black and white electronic ink particles to achieve a final gray level for an image or text. We have tuned Kindle's waveform and controller mechanism to make page turning 20% faster. This waveform tuning, combined with new hand-built, custom fonts and font-hinting, make words and letters more crisp, clear, and natural-looking. Font hints are instructions, written as code, that control points on a font character's line and improve legibility at small font sizes where few pixels are available. Hinting is a mix of aesthetic judgments and complicated technical strategies. We've designed our proprietary font-hinting to optimize specifically for the special characteristics of electronic ink."

hrant's picture

> hand-built, custom fonts and font-hinting

Damn - missed the boat.

BTW, did they do this in-house?!
If not, who did it for them?


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