[Foundation-l] Fonts was: Wikimedia Foundation 2008-2009 Annual Plan

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Thu Jul 3 05:58:02 UTC 2008

On Thu, Jul 3, 2008 at 1:34 AM, Gerard Meijssen
<gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hoi,
> As I have to spell it out for you:
>   - Wolof:  3,612,560 people
>   - Swahili: 772,642 first language 30,000,000 second language users
>   - Xhosa: 7,214,118 people
>   - Zulu: 7,214,118 first language 15,700,000 second language users

Dejavu status:

zu     Zulu                                     100% (52/52)
100% (52/52)       100% (52/52)
sw     Swahili                                  100% (52/52)
100% (52/52)       100% (52/52)
xh     Xhosa                                    100% (52/52)
100% (52/52)       100% (52/52)
wo     Wolof                                    100% (66/66)
100% (66/66)       100% (66/66)

 unfortunately the status hasn't been updated in a little while)

For those who are unware the Dejavu fonts are a family of high quality
truetype fonts (http://dejavu.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page)
with a fairly wide coverage of unicode.

Dejavu does not yet cover all of unicode (the most notable big gaps
are the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean character sets).  The primary
reason Dejavu does not yet cover everything is because quality is the
highest priority (well below being free).  A comprehensive font which
is ugly or otherwise has poorly matched characters (incompatible
metrics and such) is not something that many people will want to use
if they have any choice. Most modern systems can substitute characters
from other fonts if the selected font has holes in it, so Dejavu
allows that to happen until it has quality replacements that fit
nicely with the rest of the characters.

Dejavu's focus on quality means that it's suitable for everyday use by
everyone with a supported language, and not just by extreme-polyglots
who are perhaps more tolerant of ugly print.  Dejavu has been the
default font set on the current GNU/Linux distributions for some time

I'm sure the Dejavu folks would welcome contributions from Wikimedians
interested in improving the coverage and quality of the font.

It may also make sense at some point to declare it to be the 'standard
font' for the projects, and prefer it via CSS for improved consistency
as well as support for the panoply of bizarre characters that even
English Wikipedia utilizes.  (at least for users who are willing to
download it and install it... at well over a megabyte for the complete
character set, sending it dynamically is pretty much out of the
question! ;) )

(Preferring something like the currently non-free code2000 font would
also provide better coverage of unicode... but on most projects doing
so would get you shot: that font is not visually appealing in the

> It is people who speak languages. It is people we aim to provide information
> to.
> As to the Mozilla Foundation; the point is that our aim is to provide
> information to all people. It is essential that the infrastructure is there
> to achieve it. Fonts are essential in this game. The Mozilla foundation is
> to provide functionality to people that are already on the web. In what we
> aim to do, we do not say that people have to be online in order to be part
> of our potential public.

Indeed. Fonts are important. But they are important to a great many
people outside of Wikimedia.  Other projects like Fedora Linux, and
OLPC depend on good fonts even more than we do, so the bulk of the
work has already been done by others and is already freely available
without any action on our part.

What gaps remain must be filled, but that is work that should be
coordinated through the real heavy lifters in this space, and not
Wikimedia which does not have a past history of font production or


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