sIFR sucks

Now before you start descending on my like a pack of wolves I’d like to make my case. Which at the moment sounds worse than it is. The sIFR technique is a very good solution for a particular problem. The problem being the severe lack of typefaces. However, that isn’t the problem, the actual problem is much worse.

Some, myself included, keep forgetting that the web is still very young in cultural, sociological and artistic terms. The W3C it’s just had it’s tenth birthday and yet it has delivered so much already. But some things do take time to evolve, at a more generational pace. Typography is one of those things because it is cultural, sociological and artistic. Anybody remember the rise of Desktop Publishing (DTP) at the end of the eighties? Many said at the time that DTP set the evolution of Typography back a hundred years, give or take. And they have been proved to be right. Even though a new impulse for graphic design jumped into the driving seat. Those that did master the use of typefaces pushed the boundaries of typography in a way that had never been envisioned before. And at a pace that had never been achieved before. But bringing a discipline to the masses also brought the level of acceptable typography down, way down. Everybody thought they could do it. Many think they still can. In the past an apprentice asked their master if it was good, now they ask the client.

The biggest hurdle the world web web encountered was basically never dealt with; The distribution of copyrighted typefaces. Embedding something as superfluous as a font would have been considered a waste of time and quite rightly so. The WWW is all about hypertext. No fancy smansy graphics or fonts. The whole caboodle was about linking documents with each other. No more no less. Fonts were something that resided on your desktop no need to sent it with a ‘.txt’ document. And that’s where the problem lies, to this day. We can embed just about anything these days except fonts. So with one foot in cultural stone ages the Internet remains.

The absence of fonts for webpages is starting to become laughable. Hypertext pages are taking on a more cultural, sociological and artistic meaning for users. The lack of typography will hurt the WWW in ways we don’t really understand yet. It may actually kill the WWW as we know it.

Back to my point… sIFR solves one problem by allowing you to use the typeface of your choice for a headline. It’s noted drawback is it’s inability to allow for the kerning of characters. This in my book is such a frustrating side-effect that I’ve become extremely reluctant to use it. The second problem of the technique lies with flash itself and it’s poor anti-aliasing. Macromedia have not been able to get their font rendering act together. Anti-aliasing is a technology that is debatable as it is never mind having Flash botch it up for you. I’ve seen designers reject Flash for that very reason.

Personally I believe that typography will become more and more important for communication and interaction on the internet. The sIFR solution is surrounded by too much hype and that isn’t my cup of tea, people get a grip! Merely adding your own typeface per character as if you were block printing doesn’t solve the current Web typography problem we’ve all been stuck with for this past decade. So now I’m going to sit here disappointed until the real McCoy turns up. Suddenly the words ‘snowball’ and ‘hell’ spring to mind.

Edited [01/14/2005]: The last paragraph as been been rewritten so that I don’t sound so much like a contradicting git. Even though actually rewriting this does make me a contradicting something or other.

Update: This site now uses sIFR 3. Read my reasons for finally making the switch.

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