Now with web fonts!

This site now utilizes the @font-face attribute included in the new Firefox 3.5. These fonts should be visible in Firefox 3.5, Safari 3.1, and Opera 10. They may be visible in IE (I’m not sure). Thanks to exljbris and RedHat for some cool fonts. Let me know if you think I went overboard or if something isn’t looking right on your screen now. I’m not done tweaking yet, but this is a good start.

Firefox 3.5 font-face

I could try to explain why the @font-face CSS feature in the new Firefox 3.5 is so awesome for web developers (and viewers), but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words: Firefox 3.0 (and other web browsers) vs Firefox 3.5. You no longer need a particular font installed on your computer in order to view it on a web page. Expect some changes around here in the coming weeks to reflect that!

Back to the roots of Firefox

I started using Firefox for pretty much one reason: it correctly interpreted HTML and CSS (the code that web pages are written in). When I was learning to design web sites in high school and college, Internet Explorer was annoying because it doesn’t conform to web standards set forth by the W3C. It was a fairly ubiquitous browser that set its own standards for how the web should work. Firefox was the first browser I had come across that took web standards seriously and did their best to interpret a website’s code properly. From a design perspective, it meant I could code my sites according to the W3C’s specifications and not have to cater them to individual browsers.

With the birth of Internet Explorer 7 and now Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft has taken some steps to conform with these web standards. At the same time, Mozilla’s Firefox browser has gained significant ground against Internet Explorer, especially with the younger generation. This is at least in part due to the fact that fun new websites are designed to work best when viewed in a browser that is standards-compliant. At the same time, Mozilla has worked on improving the browsing experience by adding fantastic new features to their browser. Now, over 10 years after the finalization of the HTML 4 specification, the W3C is hard at work ironing out the details of an HTML 5 specification. Firefox is first in line to implement some of these exciting new design techniques in their soon-to-be-released Firefox 3.5, as can be seen on the Mozhacks blog. I’m excited to see Mozilla getting back to the roots of what makes Firefox the best browser on the Internet. Their latest browser is not only blindingly fast, but it’s helping designers advance the web.

Curious what you have to look forward to in Firefox 3.5? My personal favorite things are being able to embed a font in my website so that I can type in any font I want, the ability to play embedded OGG audio and Theora video directly so that I can avoid using Adobe Flash, and some crazy SVG stuff. Check out more at hacks.mozilla.org!

Of Freedom and Trademarks

I read an article this past weekend that brought up some interesting issues that I tend to forget about concerning free software. Most people these days are familiar with Firefox. While Firefox is open-source and “essentially” free software, the key area that makes it non-free is in its trademark and copyright. The brand name “Firefox” is a trademark of the Mozilla Foundation, as is the Firefox logo. Since the logo is artwork, it also falls under copyright restrictions.

Trademarks are a funny business. Unlike copyright, which is inherent from the minute that pen touches paper, a quotation is voiced, or a blog post is published, a trademark is not inherent. As such, copyright is enforceable in general. If you find a person violating that copyright, you are empowered to make them stop, but if you choose to ignore it, that’s your decision. Trademarks on the other hand are a “branding” and are not inherent. If you find someone in violation of your trademark, you must act to stop them (or help them to comply). Otherwise, you are forfeiting your right to the trademark.

In general, this is thought to be a good thing because trademarks are “branding” used to ensure quality. I probably don’t want to install just any piece of software on my computer, but if it’s “Mozilla Firefox” then I will. This is especially important when discussing open-source software. With proprietary software, it would be difficult to distribute a “fake” copy without people noticing a difference. But with open-source software, everyone has access to the application’s source code. This means that anyone could build it, modify it, and tell it to collect all of your private information for them. If they can convince you to install “their version” of your favorite program, that’s a major security threat. Sharing code is also the hallmark of free and open-source software, and users are encouraged to modify it. But it doesn’t mean that after doing that, they deserve to still call it “Firefox”. Of course, Firefox should be credited as the basis for the work. It’s good to know when something has been stamped “Mozilla Firefox” because it tells you that it’s endorsed by the Mozilla Foundation and you can trust it.

Now you might be sitting there, scratching your head, and asking, “What’s the big deal? Can’t I just assume that anything I get from mozilla.com is what I want?” For many people, the answer to that is “Yes, you can.” But according to its license, Firefox is free to distribute under its brand name as long as any changes to it have been approved by the developers. This is something that many GNU/Linux distributions take advantage of so that they can package “Firefox” as the official web browser of their operating system. This helps user-friendly distributions like Ubuntu because potential users instantly recognize the brand Firefox and are comfortable with it. This works well for just about everyone involved.

Debian is another GNU/Linux distribution. It has roots as one of the first GNU/Linux distributions, and it defines itself by its commitment to being free. You may have developed a great program that a lot of people like, but if it’s not free software, it’s not good enough to be called “Debian” and included in their operating systems. They would like to be able to use Firefox as their default web browser like other, less “freedom-oriented” distributions do. If it were just a trademark issue, there would be no problem. Debian could easily show Mozilla exactly what changes (if any) are in their version of Firefox. Since the Firefox logo is also under restrictive copyright protection, however, Debian can’t include it. They also can’t just exchange the logo for a non-copyrighted one because the Firefox logo is part of the trademark. This copyright could be changed to a more permissive license by Mozilla, but it looks like their theory is that Debian could just as easily bend their rules. This is where Debian has taken a stand. Since they’re committed to providing a completely free operating system, they do not include Firefox as their browser.

Firefox is a good browser, and Debian doesn’t want to try to code another browser or use a less popular alternative. Since the only real problem they have is with the trademark and artwork, they’d much rather keep the rest of the Firefox code intact. Plus, with the number of Firefox plug-ins available, a lot of users want to use it. So what does Debian do? Since Firefox is open-source, they just strip out the copyrighted logo and come up with their own. This means that they lose the “Firefox” branding, so they chose the name IceWeasel (and a free logo) to replace it.

Now it may seem like kind of a moot point in the long run, but it makes me proud to see that a distribution like Debian will stick to their guns in a situation like this. It may not be for everyone (I’m still using Firefox on Ubuntu), but they chose not to back down on the ideals of their organization and their users when it would have been very easy to do so. So kudos to Debian and IceWeasel.

Olympic browser blockage

So I went to check out the replay of last night’s phenomenal 4×100 Men’s relay only to find an annoyingly disturbing message: the NBC Olympics vidoes don’t “support” Linux. First of all, what kind of ludicrous claim is that? They’re freakin’ videos. If I’ve got the correct codecs installed, then I’ll be able to watch them. If I don’t, then I won’t. And what is this? 1998? Who still designs a website for only a select few browsers? I know I reported that the FAFSA website does, but at least theirs turned out to be just a warning, and it lets you continue anyways. Shouldn’t something like coverage of the Olympics be accessible to anyone, especially since broadcast coverage seems so locked down? They currently support 4 browsers: IE (Win), Firefox (Win), Safari (Mac), and Firefox (Mac). Sorry Opera fans, you’re not privileged enough to see the Olympics online.

NBC Olympics only allows 4 browsers

NBC Olympics only allows 4 browsers

The bigger issue here is that the videos appear to be in Windows Media format. In fact, from the looks of the NBC Olympics website, the entire show is being run by Microsoft. Now my problem is that I can probably play their WMVs on my linux operating system, but their silly browser detection is preventing me. Things like this should not be happening to such an international public event.

Sorry to say NBC, but there are a lot of web browsers out there that are capable of displaying your videos. No one’s asking you to go out of your way to “support” them all, just don’t preemptively block them. Plus, is anyone else concerned that they’ll start doing this to Hulu and other network’s sites? Well I am, and I’m not one bit happy about it!

Free Your Internet

I know I’m a bit late on this bandwagon. I don’t normally have too many Firefox extensions installed, but I’ve been playing around with a few lately. I’ve discovered AdBlock Plus. If you’re a Firefox user and you don’t use this extension, you should. If you’re not a Firefox user, you should be (and you should install this extension)!

What does it do, you ask? Oh, it just hides all those annoying ads that are found on so many web pages today. Notice a difference between these two images?

Website viewed without ABP

Website viewed without ABP

Web page viewed with ABP

Web page viewed with ABP

It comes with a “filter” that removes pretty much every ad you’ll come across automatically. It also adds little “block” buttons to things that might be ads. Clicking “Block” will add these items to your filter and you won’t see them anymore. Pretty sweet, eh? Well maybe not if you like seeing that you’ve won a free iPod on every web page.