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Changing the face of the web: W3C Web Fonts Working Group and MPEG recognized with a Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award



https://www.w3.org/ — 25 April 2022 — Today the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Fonts Working Group and MPEG together received a 2021 Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award for standardizing font technology for custom downloadable fonts and typography for web and TV devices.

A new face of the web

Web Fonts have enhanced the way we see and read text on the web, how we communicate; and they have literally changed the typographic face of the web. 

The invention of the World Wide Web has often been compared, in its world-changing impact on society, to the invention of the printing press in Europe. The pieces of moveable typeface used by Gutenberg helped to lead to a revolution in the sharing of information then, and Web Fonts have changed the way we see and interact with information on the web now. 

Chris Lilley, co-developer of Web Open Font Format (WOFF) and Staff Contact of the W3C Web Fonts Working Group, said: “We can often immediately identify, from the pointed heavy shapes in the text of a gothic movie poster or the sleek lines of the title of a futuristic sci-fi show, its genre. Web Fonts bring this aesthetic experience, this added visual layer of communication, more easily and more widely to the web. In addition to aesthetic experience, fonts can bring identity to the written word.”

A culmination of 25 years of work

This award for Web Fonts represents the culmination of a quarter-century of work at the Web Consortium. In 1996, just 2 years after the World Wide Web Consortium was founded, Chris Lilley, who accepted the Emmy® award for W3C, wrote a Rationale for Fonts on the Web, noting: “ a solution for Fonts on the web should be a framework, capable of supporting current and future technologies (based on content negotiation between a knowing and willing sender and recipient), and be implementable from publically available specifications.” A year later, the W3C Fonts working group released the first public draft of Web Fonts, introducing the now-familiar @font-face CSS mechanism. 

However, it would be decades of work in order to reach the point where downloadable fonts could be easily licensed and reliably used in any browser on laptops, mobile and TV. 

Downloadable fonts were not previously common on the web. W3C cleared many years of roadblocks and brought together communities of web developers, browser and font vendors to find a way forward. The new Web Fonts Working Group, established in 2009, addressed the lack of an interoperable font format and font licensing through the creation in 2012 of an industry-supported, DRM-free, open font format for the web called “WOFF” (Web Open Font Format) whose version 2 –a standard since 2018–, is deployed in all major web browsers and now powers the vast majority (80%) of sites. 

“Web Fonts heighten consumer experience and give web professionals greater aesthetic and creative choices. In many ways, though we often take fonts for granted, they act as a visual language in themselves. Fonts can be both medium and message.” stated Vladimir Levantovsky, Chair of the W3C Web Fonts Working Group.

Making Web Fonts on the web work for everyone

Web Fonts enable people to use fonts on demand over the web, without requiring installation in the operating system. The technology developed by the W3C Web Fonts Working Group significantly improves compression efficiency and lowers network bandwidth. The Brotli compressor used in WOFF2 is so efficient that it was also adopted into HTTP, providing benefits to the web for HTML, CSS and Javascript files as well. 

At the start of the web, using “web core” font pack was the only option and many sites looked the same. To us today, the text on some older websites look a bit drab and almost funny. Now, thanks to WOFF, we have a wide range of open, easy to use fonts which make it easier for designers and creators to express themselves, share meaning and bring greater richness and creativity to the web. 

"W3C is immensely honored to be recognized with this, our third Emmy® Award in Technical & Engineering in seven years, for work by Web Fonts Working Group and MPEG of standardizing web font technology. We are proud that W3C was able to provide a space where solutions can be found and groups can together improve technology, artistry and expression for web users. Congrats to the Web Fonts Working Group for the culmination of many years of work and on this well deserved honor." said Jeff Jaffe, CEO of W3C.    

In 2016 W3C was recognized with a Technical and Engineering Emmy® for the Timed Text Markup Language (TTML) standard that helps ensure that the needs of people with disabilities, particularly people who are deaf or hard of hearing, are addressed and in 2018 W3C received a Technical and Engineering Emmy® for worldwide media standard enabling a Full TV Experience on the Web, bringing videos to the Web with HTML5.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The mission of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to lead the Web to its full potential by creating technical standards and guidelines to ensure that the Web remains open, accessible, and interoperable for everyone around the globe. W3C well-known standards HTML and CSS are the foundational technologies upon which websites are built. W3C works on ensuring that all foundational Web technologies meet the needs of civil society, in areas such as accessibility, internationalization, security, and privacy. W3C also provides the standards that undergird the infrastructure for modern businesses leveraging the Web, in areas such as entertainment, communications, digital publishing, and financial services. That work is created in the open, provided for free and under the groundbreaking W3C Patent Policy.

W3C's vision for "One Web" brings together thousands of dedicated technologists representing more than 400 Member organizations and dozens of industry sectors. W3C is jointly hosted by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China. For more information see https://www.w3.org/.

End Press Release

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