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Bring sharp fonts back in Google Chrome (Disable DirectWrite)

This petition had 550 supporters


On Windows, Google Chrome has supported two standards for font rendering. Font rendering is the actual process that leads to display text on our screens. One of the font rendering modes is called GDI, the other is DirectWrite. DirectWrite is default since version 37 (released in 2014). Since then Google has offered disabling it in case someone wanted to use GDI instead. This could be done by enabling the flag #disable-direct-write at chrome://flags. When DirectWrite was disabled, Chrome used the GDI rendering.

Why was this good and why did a lot of us want to disable DirectWrite? A font that appears on the screen has to be smoothed/anti-aliased. This is the point where the two standards differ and the difference is significant. DirectWrite anti-aliases much less readable fonts than the original good old GDI. So the answer is simple: A lot of us wanted to disable DirectWrite because GDI produces much sharper and more readable fonts.

Unfortunately, GDI support has been removed in order to save some development effort. This change has already reached the frontline of Chrome releases, so sooner or later everyone of us will face less readable, blurry fonts, whether we want or not. Developers with this decision are taking away the free choice between GDI and DirectWrite, between sharp and blurry fonts. In addition, blurry fonts of DirectWrite cause headache, nausea at a lot of people, including me.
Please take a look at these images below. Make sure you view the sample images in their original size (100%, without zooming or shrinking).

[1] Text in Chrome with GDI rendering (DirectWrite disabled)
[2] Text in Chrome with DirectWrite rendering

If you think that [1] shows sharper and more readable fonts than [2], please sign this petition to tell Google that we are opposing the removal of GDI font rendering from Chrome.

I started this initiative because the web is full of complaints about the disadvantages of DirectWrite font rendering, so I thought I'm not alone with my experience. Below you can find 5 forum threads in which many people complain about DirectWrite, even on Google's own Product Forums.

https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=405445
https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/forum/#!topic/chromium-dev/WzivQg8_drw
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/chrome/Q6QGBRvULbQ
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/chrome/VStr-JaPbwQ
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/chrome/bkFBZbeMklk

(... and you can find many many more if you do a web search for DirectWrite and Chrome together)

 

Full story and technical background

More than two months ago two developers, namely Ilya Kulshin and Scott Graham created patches that would remove support for GDI font rendering completely from the Chromium codebase.

https://codereview.chromium.org/1919573002
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=579678
https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromium/src/+/1acd6b6af8c9ef59fe7227faff4585310e5c2ec8

They've done this without any direct consent from users and with a reason like since we have already sorted out support for XP/Vista, we don't need GDI anymore. They've done this despite the fact that a lot of users wanted to get rid of DirectWrite after it became default in the stable releases of Chromium and Chrome (around version 37). They've done this despite the fact that GDI is still fully supported in Windows 7 which is the most widely-used (and also the most mature, most stable) Windows today. Windows 7 is officially supported by Microsoft. As a consequence, GDI is also officially supported by Microsoft as it's part of the operating system. Thus, GDI rendering is also supposed to be supported and offered as a choice like any other platform-specific settings in Chromium. Furthermore, DirectWrite is incapable of giving the same look and feel as GDI, as you don't need glasses to see this in the comparison above. For those who prefer grayscale anti-aliasing, this means a serious degradation in quality and readability. Of course you can turn on ClearType, however there are people like me (even if we are a minority) who do not prefer ClearType and any kind of sub-pixel rendering. ClearType uses sub-pixels for smoothing font edges which is basically violating the original purpose of sub-pixels and by this it pollutes the color space that results in color fringes and bleeding. There are many displays with different (mostly lower) contrast ratios on which you simply can't tune ClearType well, it will always bleed or have noticeable color fringes. Also, for notebooks used with different backlight brightness levels (day/night) sometimes there is no universal settings without noticeable bleeding or color fringes. Even though the ClearType rendering of GDI is poorer than of DirectWrite, at grayscale rendering the winner is definitely GDI and it has done a really good job for several years: sharp, well-hinted fonts and even sharper edges (even sharper than DirectWrite with ClearType on).

 

The goal of this petition

We are asking Ilya Kulshin and Scott Graham to revert the mentioned patches. We are asking Mr. Sundar Pichai as well as Google Inc. to allocate the proper developer resources to continue the support for GDI font rendering in Chrome and Chromium. We are asking the Developer Team to keep the Disable DirectWrite flag.


Spread the word via hashtag: #DisableDirectWrite



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