Long Time No sIFR

It’s been almost two years since we originally released sIFR, and predictably, the world is still not a tangible step closer to a real custom typography solution for the web. Sure there are people bringing the subject up again in W3C mailing lists and companies waxing philosophical about the typographical ecosystem, but nobody is actually doing anything measurable about it. Talking is good, and I’d hate to suppress any constructive discussions that may be going on right now, but until I see something more than a “recommendation” or a “working spec”, I will continue to shake my head and wonder when we’ll see any execution.

We had a feeling this sort of stagnation would continue when we first released sIFR, and therefore, we haven’t stopped development on it since version 1.0. Version 2.0 was the big release and current defacto “sIFR standard” in place on most sIFR-ized web sites today. The list of sites employing this solution is long and impressive. From MSNBC, to Nike, to The U.S. Navy, we estimate the number of sIFR-sized sites to be in the thousands, spanning across hundreds of countries, and serving up billions of pages views annually.

For those running sIFR 2.0 or 2.0.1, we have a minor update for you: version 2.0.2. This update fixes a bug related to the Microsoft IE Eolas update and also degrades sIFR text gracefully to HTML/CSS in the presence of the Firefox AdBlock extension. On a tiny percentage of machines running the new IE (mostly Media Centers, I believe), sometimes sIFR text would show up as a broken image. This is now fixed. Additionally, the AdBlock fix removes the biggest of what I’d consider “material” downsides to using sIFR as a typography solution. Now even your AdBlocking visitors won’t miss a beat.

Version 2.0.2 is probably the last in the 2.0 series and is available at the standard sIFR landing page: mikeindustries.com/sifr.

Version 3!

The much bigger news, however, is the release of the sIFR 3 Alpha builds by lead developer Mark Wubben (“The Dutch Wolf“). Mark was the javascript genius behind version 2 and he’s now taking over lead development in this new version. I will still be involved as “spiritual advisor” (and tester, of course), but given duties at Newsvine, I’m pulling back a bit on the development side.

Some of my favorite features implemented so far are:

  • Consistent font sizing, kerning, and leading, without the need for manual tuning
  • Sizing through CSS
  • Much better looking type, due to better anti-aliasing
  • Flash 8 text effects such as shadows
  • Easier configuration

So head on over to the first sIFR 3 Alpha article and let Mark know what you think. Or, if you’re really adventurous, you can download the nightlies.

A true solution for custom web typography will come eventually, but until that time, we will keep pushing forward with the tools we have.

29 comments on “Long Time No sIFR”. Leave your own?
  1. Dustin Diaz says:

    More options. Easier configuration. Shadows. Woo. Way to go guys :)
    Indeed, nothing has happened these last few years. But you did you expect anything? You’re the kind of guy that either the IE team or Mozilla team needs to hire to get support for this kind of stuff.

  2. Another nice thing about the sIFR 3 code is the use of different versions of flash. You can serve up a “low src” version for flash 7 users and a much nicer “high src” version for those who have upgraded to flash 8.

  3. Remi says:

    You guys rock :)

  4. Dave says:

    Ah a nice update to the code. Very nice Mike. Will give it a tester after the football!

  5. JesterXL says:

    Supporting Flash 8’s new font engine with downgradable Flash 7 is just great, thanks guys!

  6. Dan Mall says:

    Well done, gents! The addition of leading alone makes version 3 a 100% improvement. Will version 4 write copy for us too?

  7. Mark Wubben says:

    sIFR-Headline-O-Generator, fun!

  8. Baxter says:

    I’d like to come up with something more insightful than “hot diggity,” but I’m drawing a blank. I’ve been using sifr since the very first releases, and will absolutely go download the nightlies.

    (Blogs nobody comes to are excellent for testing things)

  9. I’ll second the hot-diggity comment!

    SIFR is a wonderful innovation and whilst the ‘official’ web typography standardisation process might be stagnating (I’m not sure on the limitations etc so I’ll stay quiet on this) its becoming a standard through usage. I just noticed Sky TV have picked it up too.

    Good work! I’ll start playing with v3 in the morning.

  10. Ryan Guill says:

    This is great! This is the pefect software to solve this problem, and not only that but gives you great ability as well, not to mention degrades nicely.

    btw, whats stopping the browser makers and the w3c from putting out a standard that allows us to embed fonts like we embed images into a page? sure, they could be a hefty download sometimes, but with caching and the high speed modems most of us are enjoying it shouldnt be too bad… and if copyright protection is the issue, maybe the font gets put in a browser cache somewhere that it cant get back out…

    I dont follow these discussions like you mentioned above so forgive me if this is what is already being talked about.

  11. Collin says:

    I’ve been trying to find sites to load up with sIFR all week. Easy to do when your pumping out a couple sites a week. I will share the URL’s with you as soon as any of these sites go live.

    There seems to be an issue recognizing the mouse-off on this demo page. Perhaps it’s just on my end. I look forward to giving v3 a better look later this week. For now I’ll stick with 2.0.2

    Note: Consistent sizing of fonts would be my #1 favorite feature for sure! The v2’s are like an awkward balancing act between IE and FF.. Still a good solution though. :-D

    Final note: Microsoft IE Eolas update, I assume this is the neat new feature that causes flash to be inactive until clicked upon. I would like the find the people who forced MS to add these junk and say unpleasant things to them. Then I want to shake my head knowingly in shame at the MS guys who couldn’t think of a better solution then “click to activate” appearing out of the blue on new IE6 revisions. I think aside from more transparent security updates this counts as their first real feature update to the browser since NS4 first came out. I’m not a Microsoft basher but they failed us big time with IE 5-6. This Eolas junk is just absurd!

    Oh yeah, have I mention sIFR is neato?

  12. Mark Wubben says:

    Colin, yeah, the link issue is known to me. Not sure what is causing it, though.

  13. Bob Everland says:

    What’s been the issue with the latest Firefox? I’m not getting SIFR or your flash at the top to come through?

  14. Three cheers for Mark!

    (and a few spiritual ones for Mike ;)

  15. Kevin Cannon says:

    Have you thought about implemeting siFR (or a varient of it) with SVG with Flash fallback?

    Firefox and Opera now both render SVG natively(with Safari following soon) and so can Flash with libraries. sIFR currently requires the Flash authoring tool, where as if you used SVG it would be supporting standards, and allow you to use it, even if you don’t have a copy of Flash.

    It’s probably a bit of a pipe dream because the difficulty level is significantly higher, but for SVG enabled browsers, the experience would be much better.


  16. Mike D. says:

    Kevin: I don’t have anything against SVG, but why would the experience be much better? Unrelated to that, I don’t think I’d ever implement anything that wasn’t viewable in 90% of the world’s browsers unfortunately.

  17. JesterXL says:

    You don’t need Flash. Use MTASC, SWFMill, MING, and/or hAxe.

  18. Mark Wubben says:

    Kevin, implementing in SVG would also meanrendering the font itself in SVG, which is pretty much impossible.

  19. Kevin Cannon says:


    sIFR is great, but there will always be some problems inherant to using a plugin, that you’ve documented. Copy & pasting chunks of text, will always be fiddly. SVG would work inline in the HTML as if it was just plaintext. Basically, using SVG would be one step closer to native font embedding.

    I’m not suggesting an SVG only solution. Merely a solution with SVG at it’s base. Flash can read the SVG if the browser doesn’t support it natively.

    JesterXL – that is true allright about those apps.

    Mark – I’m not quite sure I understand you. SVG can handle font embedding. It’s designed to be able to render fonts.

    As I said, it probably is a pipe dream :o)

  20. Mike D. says:

    Thanks for the clarification Kevin. I could very well be wrong but I was under the impression that SVG text was treated as an “object”, pretty much exactly the same way Flash text is. I went to an SVG example page here and that appears to be the case. Text is selectable, but just like sIFR text, it’s only selectable as part of an object. I could very well be wrong on this though as I don’t follow SVG development very closely.

  21. Kevin Cannon says:

    Ahh, my bad, looks like I was wrong on this one. I assumed SVG was implemented more ‘inline’ with the webpage. Given it’s not there’s no real advantage over just using Flash. Thanks for the reply.

  22. Guy Tucker says:

    Sounds good, will it support multiple colours & links in one heading?

  23. Jeff L says:


    That’s awesome – I actually just used sIFR for the first time the other day and was very impressed – I can’t believe I took so long to give it a shot. I think I was a bit wary of the Flash.

    Does anyone know of any good tutorials that show how to use sIFR without the actual Flash application? That’s the biggest setback at the moment that I see – I can put in a PO for it at work if I can convince them of the benefits of sIFR, but Flash isn’t cheap to purchase personally either….

  24. JesterXL says:

    Jeff, you don’t need all of these components, but hopefully this’ll give you a head start.

    FAMES Tutorials

  25. Wil Alambre says:

    Looking forward to sIFR 3!

  26. Jeff L says:


    Thanks – a bit overwhelming as I’ve never used any of those tools or enviornments before, but it definitely looks like it can be done.

  27. Giordano says:

    i’ve to give you some feedbacks, if you don’t already know .. i’ve some problem with last NIGHTLIES. They don’t work with IE 6.0 (WIN).
    Thank you

  28. […] (26.08.06): Ótimas notícias, o Mike Davidson divulgou o lançamento do sIFR 3.0 alpha, uma das novidades é a possibilidade de se utilizar filtros do Flash 8. Se você quiser testar, […]

  29. […] (26.08.06): Ótimas notícias, o Mike Davidson divulgou o lançamento do sIFR 3.0 alpha, uma das novidades é a possibilidade de se utilizar filtros do Flash 8. Se você quiser testar, […]

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