WOFF is an acronym for “Web Open Font Format 1.0”, a web standard that was introduced in December 2012. There is a version 2.0 of the same format in the works, currently published as a working draft.

In comparison with traditional font formats like TTF or OTF, they provide better compression while keeping a lot of features of those formats, like ligatures, small caps, or alternative styles. Those feature can be used in CSS by leveraging the font-feature-settings property. WOFF2 provides even better compression and faster decompression, which is especially important on mobile devices.

WOFF is available in all modern browsers. The only notable exceptions for support are IE8 (and previous versions, obviously), Opera 12 & Mini, and Android Browser up to 4.3. The enhanced WOFF2 is available in Firefox 39+, Chrome 36+, modern Opera, current Android Browser and current Chrome for Android. (See CanIUse.com)

By using the modern file formats and providing a good fallback font for browsers not supporting WOFF/2, websites render more quickly, the build process is quicker and more easily to maintain, and users with older hardware don’t get the additional burden of downloading and decompressing a font file.

In addition the font should always be loaded using JavaScript, allowing the user to start reading instead of staring at invisible text while the web fonts load. An even more advanced technique by the Filament Group uses cookies to provide the user with the (then cached font) on page load immediately on the second request.

apple-watch-html-email

On Monday, my wait for the Apple Watch was over and a shiny “space black” Apple Watch Sport arrived at my doorstep. It is an incredibly interesting device with a lot of limitations – but those are expected from a 1st generation device.

One factor limits my use of the watch greatly: The inability to resolve links. The watch works great with the internet, the connection to my phone works out very nicely as well. But the watch is not a great citizen of the web (yet).

Take the email I received above. The sender didn’t care too much about the content of the text version of the HTML email they sent me, so apart from information about this (“This message contains elements Apple Watch can’t display. You can read a text version below.”), the text version reads “You have received the alternative text version of an HTML message. Please click below to access the web version of the message: View an HTML version of this message: http://”.

The Apple Watch makes the case for HTML emails. But even if I wanted to follow the link at the end of the message, I can’t. It is not tapable. There is no handoff to Safari on my iPhone (which was what I expected). The same thing happens when I receive tweets on the watch and there is no way to take a glimpse at the related website.

Apple has not added basic HTML viewing functionality to the watch, which is a shame. A lightweight HTML parser with main content extraction – à la the iPhone Reader mode – would probably be totally okay for basic information. In addition, a handoff feature can help with websites where the content can’t be extracted or doesn’t make sense.

Thinking about it, the whole rendering and reformatting of the website could be done on the iPhone. That would mean that Safari can display the cached rendered web page immediately on handoff.

I hope watchOS 2 will bring such a basic functionality, it would improve my use of the Apple Watch.

I am really worried about Facebook’s new Instant Articles feature… Not only does it bring web content into a private, proprietary silo, without URLs or any other possibilities to link to them apart from Facebook, but they also don’t seem to work on the iPhone with VoiceOver at all.

We need to be really cautious that we don’t lose HTML/CSS as the primary, open, accessible, linkable, syndicatable solution for web content. If we are not, this might be a turning point.