[MPEG-OTSPEC] near-term OT spec work

Adam Twardoch (Lists) list.adam at twardoch.com
Fri Oct 9 03:37:50 CEST 2020

We wouldn't have this conversation if the MPEG OFF standard was any good.
But I think we all agree that it's simply not good, in terms of editorial
and technical quality.

Editorial, because it's inherited (rubber-stamped) from an existing format
spec that was not very good. It was an amalgamation of pieces written by
various people over decades, partly at Microsoft, partly at Adobe, with
smaller contributions from other parties. Those groups, including the
"overseer" of MSOT (MS) never really had manpower to have a quality
rewrite. Stuff was added on top of stuff. This is not a critique of the
people behind, simply of the fact that usually the spec was in the hands of
between 0 and 1 person who had other "day responsibilities". This ended up
in getting good intentions and decent work at times, but it was "heroic
coding" at other times.

Technical, because it's not even close to be a self-sufficient document. It
relies on tons of implied knowledge and is full of obsolete things. As long
as they're was only a handful of implementers of MSOT in a handful of
companies, those people typically "deltaed" the written words with that
implied knowledge they amassed in their heads. There never was even any
place to collect that knowledge in writing for others to peruse, because
there was no proper open place for annotating.

Since the 1990s, PHP has had one of the best documentations, because it
integrates the core docs with user-contributed notes — example:


Those notes make the documentation 10x more useful.

The "search-replace-rubberstamp" method by which the vast majority of MPEG
OFF was developed from MSOT meant that all those shortcomings got inherited
in OFF, and even worse, some things that were the loose part of MSOT did
not make it into OFF.

So OFF is dead weight. I sincerely cannot believe that anybody could
develop working software or working fonts based on the OFF standard. Yeah,
maybe the fact that OFF is an ISO standard means that some makers of
consumer electronics were encouraged to actually implement **OpenType**
(because they could say, well, it's sort of an implemention of OFF), but
they certainly never really implemented OFF if MSOT and all kinds extra
stuff around MSOT didn't exist. So OFF was a fig leaf at best.

MPEG does not have much expertise in fonts, and the few people who are font
people in SC29 just happen to be the right people so they can encourage the
others to vote Yes.

Vlad says the AHG is a success because the experts here bring in the right
expertise so that SC29 only needs to do this simple rubber stamping. But if
this is to remain so — what's the problem in giving the AHG **real** tools
(incl. the source files for the docs) so that those experts actually can
exercise their expertise more efficiently?

Adobe published the text of MSOT 1.4 under the Apache 2 license years ago.
MS could if they do choose publish the current MSOT under an opensource

Did or would this in any way influence the sellability of ISO MPEG OFF? No.
People who want to but a copy of the ISO OFF standard will continue to buy
it, and the consumer electronics makers will use it as the fig leaf.
Because they pay for **the ISO standard**, the exact thing that has the ISO
logo and a version number.

But what if the next version of the ISO OFF standard is simply BETTER
because that group of experts that Vlad so much cherishes and that he
attributes the success of OFF and the AHG to — because they can work much
more efficiently.

And if the source documentation is available under a liberal license.?
Well, an older version already has been (AOTS which formed the basis of
http://commontype.org/ ). For years! Has it ever in any way »endangered«
the business model of ISO OFF? No. Because the value of an ISO standard is
not really the »text« by itself, but it is the legal framework behind it,
the fact that an ISO standard is backed by various national bodies etc.

So, I'll repeat: if OFF was really good, we wouldn't be having this
conversation. Right now it's not good, it just *is*. And that by itself is
okay, but I imagine that OFF works be much more of a success for ISO if it
were *good* and *real* (I.e. an actual basis for implementing something).

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