--- Comment #59 from Nicolas Mailhot <nicolas.mailhot(a)laposte.net> ---
To give some perspective:
1. end of 90's: X11 is reaching the end of its useful shelf life. Its codebase
is badly outdated, its text rendering sucks loads
2. end of 90’s → 2003 attempts to shove modern text rendering in the X11
codebase, using freetype. It’s a failure. After several false starts (Xft…)
decision to separate text rendering from X11, and keep freetype only for
low-level rasterization. Other text handling functions will be moved to
dedicated libs (starting with fontconfig for font selection). No one is willing
to work on fixing the corresponding vestigial and known-broken code freetype
and X11 side. The new architecture forms the basis of X12 (that you know under
the Wayland name today).
3. 2003-2006. Free text handling projects (Gnome, KDE, X11, Open Office,
Firefox, SIL, etc) have all been working separately on writing modern text
layouting libs, starting with forks of the previous in-freetype attempts. They
are all hitting the same problems, fixing the same bugs, and OpenType keeps
adding new twists. They’re sick to death of this situation. They decide to
convey a conference to try to find a solution. That’s the first text layout
4. 2006. Participants agree to drop their separate dev attempts and consolidate
on a single lib. They choose to base it on the Harfbuzz GTK component. Harfbuzz
is an OpenType-only lib (Harfbuzz is the transliteration of OpenType in
5. 2006-2016 To mark harfbuzz is now a common codebase, it’s renamed
harfbuzz-ng. Everyone from KDE to Open Office contribute its layouting fixes to
Legacy text codebases get rewritten to use harfbuzz-ng (in Gnome, KDE, Firefox,
*Office, OpenKDK, TEX engines, browsers, I probably forget some of them). If
you look at who is doing the work, you find the same small number of people
contributing in all projects.
The process is not without bumps: Oracle gives Open Office to Apache, and
Apache starts by trying to rip anything free software-ish from the codebase.
Google poaches lots of free desktop text devs to work on its own text rendering
stack (Chrome…). At some time Text Layout summits peter out, because consensus
has been achieved and the only remaining part is implementation work.
6. 2016. Libre Office completes its migration to harfbuzz-ng in the 5.3
release. That results in the dropping of legacy font format support. Bitmap and
PS1 users grumble, but they have no alternative solution to propose, and the
harfbuzz-ng migration fixes in one go years of text layouting problems.
7. 2019. Pango completes its migration to harfbuzz-ng. Same result. That’s what
prompted this issue ticket.
So, no use complaining converting font formats is work and OpenType is not
OpenType is getting mainstream NOW. That’s why it's curtain time for other font
formats in all the apps that matter (matter because they have an active
maintenance team, which has been doing the harfbuzz-ng migration work in the
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