Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

WYSIWYS

Posted by Todd McKinney on June 13, 2007

T wo worlds collide. A Mac browser sprouts up in windows land, and everyone is poking at the strange thing to see if it’s software, or an alien life form.

Initial reports seem to peg this browser as a “software-like” alien life form. In what may not be any kind of coincidence, Marc Andreessen is blogging and getting rave reviews.

The convergence of a browser invasion coupled with a thought-leader re-emergence in the form of Andreessen’s public soapbox are a sure sign of the “end times” in software. This is also known as the “everything old is new again” phenomenon. The only thing necessary to bring the cycle to completion is a major software product announcement following the retro naming scheme of x-Gold, x-Pro, or Advanced x.

Enough of the dumb jokes, but haven’t we seen this before? This topic nearly dates back to the beginning of the PC. As I recall, the Mac crowd led the way in desktop publishing and the WYSIWYG paradigm. As I’m following this discussion of philosophical conflict between pixel grids and native font design, it seems they are still leading the way in DTP and WYSIWYG. At least if WYG is output on some high resolution device that does printing/typesetting.

That’s where the interesting conundrum comes into play. Is that really what you want? Or would you rather have your text render optimally on the device you’re working on? What if the text never gets printed? What if it does? To me, this seems like another case of Microsoft doing what’s right for the vast majority of people. Fonts render so that you can read them best on the screen, and then they “look better” when you print them. It’s not strictly WYSIWYG, it’s more of a What You See Is What You See approach. Works for me. The beauty of this tactic is that once we do get high resolution displays, it’s pretty easy to just use the correct fonts and be done with it. In the meantime, making text more readable on a (admittedly crummy) screen just seems like a good thing to do.

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