Introducing sIFR

Mike Davidson, in conjunction with Shaun Inman and Tomas Jogin has released “a scalable, multi line, Flash 6 compatible version of IFR to help you reduce the amount of browser text in your life and free the world from the scourge of Arial.”

This system uses JS, DOM and Flash to provide scalable, typographically-rich headlines and font treatments through dynamic replacement of H1, H2 and DIV tags.

Seems interesting.

I’m historically pretty anti Flash. I believe in HyperText and meaningful, semantic markup. I believe in access to information to all. I believe that pure text is faster, better, and more “Web”. Just being up front about it. (On the other hand, I also believe in Progressive Enhancement, which is consistent with this approach.)

So I’m not yet sure what I think about this technique.

I know I’m more fixated on edge cases than many people, and that my work necessitates a never-wavering focus on speed, performance and efficiency, and that I have strong feelings about the benefits of “built-in” usability. But…

One reason I generally don’t like text as images is because you can’t select or copy-paste the content when it’s locked in an image. Organizations that have their address locked in an image prevent me from Yahoo-mapping their address and therefore lose my business.

My first test was to select the text of this flash headline. Happily, I was successful (though it’s pretty clunky, and much more difficult than normal HTML text).

One of Flash’s historic downsides is that .swf text is more or less unknown to the browser. They seem to have fixed this for mouse-based text selection, but using the keyboard doesn’t seem to work. Modern browsers have started introducing “Find As You Type” functionality, which lets you navigate (and select) the text of a page from your keyboard. This isn’t compatible with sIFR in my testing. Further, the standard “Control-F” on-page search isn’t aware of sIFR text. I, and many people, use Control-Find often. That IFR is for headlines instead of body content is some consolation, but… I’ll lump those together as one strike.

I wonder how well .swf text is indexed by search engines? I don’t have an easy way to test this, but because I can’t select the .swf text via the keyboard, and because test uses of Control-F “find” failed, I’m skeptical.

Interesting technique. Definitely one to keep an eye on.