More on Online Fonts has some interesting speculation about whether Apple is planning on making deliver fonts universally online. As users of online word processors such as Google Docs will know, the range of fonts available is limited to those likely to be available on any computer (not many). And as any editor of technical documents and books will know, fonts have to passed around with documents if you want the person on the receiving end to see special characters and symbols, or even just an unusual typeface. Siobhan and I had some trouble with this while we were working on Key Ideas. So what happens if you want to use to distribute a document with a specialist font? In the primary document will be ok, because it seems Apple have decided to make the viewable ‘web version’ something like a PDF. But what about the downloadable wordprocessor-compatible versions? This could be the answer and if it is, it’s a huge breakthrough:

In the excitement about Apple’s beta version of – the web-based document sharing/collaborating feature of their iWork suite – people have been asking about fonts. Specifically, what happens when you use a font that that isn’t available on the receiving end of the shared document?

I thought immediately of the news that the nightly builds of Webkit [the underlying software behind Apple’s Safari web browser, Google’s Chrome, and others] support downloadable fonts. All it takes is a couple lines of CSS and, as Jobs would say, “Boom.”  [Link]

Of course this doesn’t just apply to When Safari and Chrome catch up with Webkit a wide range of fonts could also be available in Google Docs and Zoho.

People prefer the pre-installed web browser

Yesterday something unusual happened on this blog. I posted a piece about reading books to my daughter on my iPod Touch and it was picked up by the Mac news site Macsurfer. Now usually the number of visitors on this site bounces along at around 40-50 unique visitors each day (I love you all) and most come from search. That’s ok since this site is really just a place to find me and some of my work on the web. But yesterday, December 1st 2008, over 1000 visitors arrived, delivering many thousands of hits and page views in just a few hours, almost all of them from Macsurfer. Since I have the stats for December 1st, and since almost all the traffic for that day came from a single Mac-related source, we can speculate wildly draw some interesting conclusions about the browsing habits of Mac users. Firstly, here are the stats for December 1st (if it’s too small to read go ahead and click on the image to make it bigger, but I’ll be mentioning the relevant numbers below):

The first thing to think about is the proportion of operating systems, with Macintosh at 69.9% and Windows at 22.9%. This is almost exactly the reverse of what I normally see, with Linux a little lower than usual at 0.6%. What’s more interesting though is when you look at that in the context of the browsers. 60% of visitors were using Safari, the browser that comes with every Mac, and this is almost exactly the same percentage of people using Internet Explorer, the browser that ships with every Windows PC, on a normal day. The proportion using Firefox is the same as usual at around 20% and Internet Explorer, at 12% occupies the position usually held by Safari.

What interests me about this is that Mac users have usually chosen to use a Mac and are therefore used to making computing choices. Most Windows users take what they are given at work and may be inclined to use the same thing at home. Some will be actively choosing Windows of course, but active choice is not necessarily the default position for Windows users as it is for Mac users. Yet when it comes to browsers Mac users seem just as reluctant as Windows users to try something they have to download. It could be of course that Safari is just the best browser on the Mac (I disagree), but if so then the same must be true of Internet Explorer on Windows. One additional point is that even on this single day the list of browsers is as long as it usually is at the end of a month, suggesting that the more esoteric end of the market is not dependent on particular interests. It’s a shame my AmigaOS visitor didn’t show up yesterday.

So there you have it, some evidence that pre-installed browsers are the ones people use even when they have a choice. Mozilla and Google should take note and get Firefox and Chrome pre-installed on as many PCs as possible.