Tags: standards

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Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Variable fonts

We have a tradition here at Clearleft of having the occasional lunchtime braindump. They’re somewhat sporadic, but it’s always a good day when there’s a “brown bag” gathering.

When Google’s AMP format came out and I had done some investigating, I led a brown bag playback on that. Recently Mark did one on Fractal so that everyone knew how work on that was progressing.

Today Richard gave us a quick brown bag talk on variable web fonts. He talked us through how these will work on the web and in operating systems. We got a good explanation of how these fonts would get designed—the type designer designs the “extreme” edges of size, weight, or whatever, and then the file format itself can extrapolate all the in-between stages. So, in theory, one single font file can hold hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of potential variations. It feels like switching from bitmap images to SVG—there’s suddenly much greater flexibility.

A variable font is a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts.

There were a couple of interesting tidbits that Rich pointed out…

While this is a new file format, there isn’t going to be a new file extension. These will be .ttf files, and so by extension, they can be .woff and .woff2 files too.

This isn’t some proposed theoretical standard: an unprecedented amount of co-operation has gone into the creation of this format. Adobe, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all contributed. Agreement is the hardest part of any standards process. Once that’s taken care of, the technical solution follows quickly. So you can expect this to land very quickly and widely.

This technology is landing in web browsers before it lands in operating systems. It’s already available in the Safari Technology Preview. That means that for a while, the very best on-screen typography will be delivered not in eBook readers, but in web browsers. So if you want to deliver the absolute best reading experience, look to the web.

And here’s the part that I found fascinating…

We can currently use numbers for the font-weight property in CSS. Those number values increment in hundreds: 100, 200, 300, etc. Now with variable fonts, we can start using integers: 321, 417, 183, etc. How fortuitous that we have 99 free slots between our current set of values!

Well, that’s no accident. The reason why the numbers were originally specced in increments of 100 back in 1996 was precisely so that some future sci-fi technology could make use of the ranges in between. That’s some future-friendly thinking! And as Håkon wrote:

One of the reasons we chose to use three-digit numbers was to support intermediate values in the future. And the future is now :)

Needless to say, variable fonts will be covered in Richard’s forthcoming book.

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Do we need a new heading element? We don’t know - JakeArchibald.com

Jake is absolutely spot-on here. There’s been a lot of excited talk about adding an h element to HTML but it all seems to miss the question of why the currently-specced outline algorithm hasn’t been implemented.

This is a common mistake in standards discussion — a mistake I’ve made many times before. You cannot compare the current state of things, beholden to reality, with a utopian implementation of some currently non-existent thing.

If you’re proposing something almost identical to something that failed, you better know why your proposal will succeed where the other didn’t.

Jake rightly points out that the first step isn’t to propose a whole new element; it’s to ask “Why haven’t browsers implemented the outline for sectioned headings?”

(I added a small historical note in the comments pointing to the first occurrence of this proposal way back in 1991.)

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Polyfills and the evolution of the web - TAG finding

Really good advice for anyone thinking of releasing a polyfill into the world.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Making input type=date complicated – Samsung Internet Developers – Medium

PPK has posted some excellent thinking on calendar widgets to Ev’s blog.

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Browser Support for evergreen websites

Oh, how I wished everyone approached building for the web the way that Rachel does. Smart, sensible, pragmatic, and exciting!

Friday, January 6th, 2017

From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck (Spoilers) | Motherboard

As always with sci-fi interfaces, the important part is telling the story, not realism or accuracy. Personally, I liked the way that the World War II trappings of Rogue One extended to communications and networking technologies.

The Realm of Rough Telepathy

I love this recasting of the internet into a fantastical medieval setting. Standards become spells, standards bodies become guilds and orders of a coven, and technologies become instruments of divination. Here, for example, is the retelling of IPv4:

The Unique Rune of the Fourth Order is the original and formative Unique Rune, still commonly in use. All existing Unique Runes of the Fourth Order were created simultaneously in the late 1970’s by the Numberkeepers, at a time when Rough Telepathy was a small and speculative effort tightly affiliated with the Warring Kingdom of the United States. There were then and are now 4.3 billion Unique Runes of the Fourth Order, a number which cannot be increased. The early Numberkeepers believed 4.3 billion would be more than enough. However, this number is no longer sufficient to provision the masses hungry to never disengage from participation in Rough Telepathy, and the Merchants eager to harness Rough Telepathy as a “feature” in new and often unnecessary consumer products. This shortage has caused considerable headache among the Fiefdoms, the Regional Telepathy Registers, and the Coven.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Eric’s Archived Thoughts: CSS Grid!

Eric is excited about the imminent arrival of grid layout in browsers. And after reading the answers to these sure-to-be-frequently asked questions, you’ll be excited too!

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Service Worker, what are you? - Mariko Kosaka

This is a fun—and accurate—explanation of service workers.

There’s definitely something “alien” about a service worker—it’s kind of like a virus that gets installed on the user’s device. I’ve taken to describing it as “a man-in-the-middle attack on your own website” which makes sound a bit scarier than is necessary.

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Custom Elements: an ecosystem still being worked out - Tales of a Developer Advocate

Really, really smart thinking from Paul here, musing on the power relationship between the creators of custom elements and the users of custom elements.

Monday, October 10th, 2016

The Web is not Fashionable. - The blog of Ada Rose Edwards

This is such a great perspective on what it’s like to build for the web over the long term. The web will always be a little bit broken, and that’s okay—we can plan for that.

The Web has history. If you build with web technology it will stick around. We try not to break the web even if it means the mistakes and bad decisions we have made in the past (and will make in the future) get set in stone.

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Why we are suing Apple for better HTML5 support in iOS?

Finally! Apple are being sued for refusing to allow any non-Webkit browsers to be installed on iOS.

I’m not usually in favour of legal action but in this case, there doesn’t seem to be any other recourse.

We would be delighted at Nexedi to create a Web browser for iOS with better HTML5 support based on a recent version of Blink library for example. But as soon as we would publish it, it would be banned from Apple’s AppStore. Many developers have experienced this situation already. Many companies are being hurt by this situation. Some companies have already begged Apple to improve HTML5 support in iOS with little significant results.

Friday, September 30th, 2016

GreenSock | “will-change” must change? Animators beware.

This will-change property that was intended to SOLVE problems for animators may end up doing the opposite.

It seems wise for the browsers to step back and let the spec authors fill in the implementation details and gain consensus before moving forward.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Web Platform Feature Availability

Here’s a handy graph from Paul:

Powered by data from caniuse.com and StatCounter, this page indicates the percentage of users who have a browser that natively supports various web platform features.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Proposal to CSSWG, Sept 2016 // Speaker Deck

Jen has some ideas for a new CSS Region spec to turbo-boost Grid. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, but in the meantime, if you have feedback on this, please let her know.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

The Typekit Blog | Variable fonts, a new kind of font for flexible design

This is what Nick Sherman has been banging on about for years, and now the time has come for variable fonts …as long as typographers, browser makers, and standards bodies get behind it.

More details on Ev’s blog.

Monday, September 12th, 2016

How Google And Others Are Plotting The Revenge Of The Web App | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

It’s always, um …”interesting” when a mainstream publication covers a topic from the web’s bikeshed. In this case, it’s progressive web apps, and—apart from the sensationalist headline—it’s actually not that bad at all.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Shadow DOM v1: self-contained web components | Web Fundamentals - Google Developers

An in-depth look at the current Shadow DOM spec. It’s well-written but I don’t think this will really click with me until I start playing around with it for myself.

It’s good to see that the examples have some thought given to fallback content.

There’s also a corresponding tutorial on custom elements

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Using Feature Queries in CSS ★ Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog

A thorough explanation of @supports from Jen, with plenty of smart strategies for using it in your CSS today.

What is React?

I’m in a similar position to Remy:

I don’t use React. I don’t really gravitate towards larger frameworks, only because my daily work doesn’t require it, and I’m personally more interested in the lower level techniques and parts of the web and JavaScript.

But, like Remy, I’m interested in knowing what are the ideas and techniques embedded within large frameworks that will end up making their way into the web stack:

What I want to know is: what should I be taking away from React into my own continued evolution as a web developer?

There are some good responses in the comments.