June 19, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Safari ushers in better browser colors
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Safari's competition isn't standing still. Microsoft wouldn't comment on future color-support plans for this article, but the company has sunk a lot of time and money into the color problem.
Microsoft developed scRGB, a wide-gamut color space that's now an international standard. For example, where sRGB devotes 8 bits of data to describing the red, green and blue color components for each pixel of an image, scRGB can devote 16 or 32 bits per component and describe the colors with more flexible floating-point numerals instead of just integers.
In addition, Microsoft is pushing a file format called HD Photo that it hopes will become a replacement for the ubiquitous JPEG. HD Photo--support for which is built into Vista under the format's previous name, Windows Media Photo--uses the scRGB color space. Supporting other color spaces in IE is a logical extension of promoting HD Photo.
The open-source Mozilla project is less tight-lipped about its plans for color profile support.
"I'd love to see it in Firefox 3, and we're working to get it there," Vukicevic said.
It's not certain that Firefox 3, code-named Gran Paradiso, will support ICC color profiles. But there is a patch under development and testing right now, Vukicevic said, and the goal is to include it. If it does ship, though, color management likely will be disabled by default.
"We're hoping to get the feature in for the first beta. At that point, we'll look at the feedback and decide whether to turn it on or off," Vukicevic said. For those who enable color management but who haven't calibrated their monitors to display standard colors, images will look different. And it's a toss-up whether they'll look better or worse, he said.
Another factor is performance. Enabling color support degrades Web page display "a few percent" for normal browsing, he said.
Firefox runs on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. To bring color support to all those foundations, Firefox uses an open-source color management engine called Little CMS that can translate from one color space, such as the one a photo uses, to another, such as the one a monitor uses.
ICC color support has been a longstanding feature request in Mozilla; the bug listing for the project initially was filed in 1999. It's been a personal issue for Vukicevic, too: he's a photographer as well as a programmer.
"There's a bunch of us at Mozilla who are amateur photographers," Vukicevic said, and they've "been clamoring for ICC support for quite a while now."
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