Most of us assume that when we visit someone’s online photo album, or send along images to our friends, that we’re all pretty much seeing the same image. We could all be forgiven for not thinking too much about color levels, white point, and other visual ingredients that are fairly key to the experience. Well, the truth is, it varies enormously.
What am I talking about, you ask? Take a look at some images from one of my recent photography projects. In each screenshot, the sad, washed out copy on the left is Firefox – a browser without color management – and the vivid, sharp image on the right is from Apple’s Safari browser. Both are on OS/X Tiger 10.4.9.
Now these are the same image in different browsers on the same computer and same display. Imagine the variance across various operating systems, computers, and displays.
Safari is, I think, is the only browser on OS/X that “honors” each image’s embedded color profile. This goes a long way in ensuring that each person, regardless of their software and hardware, has the same overall image experience. Web browser color management seems pretty critical to me – but it’s effectively absent on both major operating systems – OS/X and Windows. I am not sure if there is a browser for XP or Vista that has color management – astonishingly, Internet Explorer does not.
For major nerds, you might want to read the International Color Consortium’s whitepaper on the subject, “Why The Web Needs Color Management”.
I can’t figure out why Microsoft, the Mozilla project, Flock, and everyone else has decided that color management of images is not a priority.
It’s buggin’ me lately. You might say, “dude, stop whining and just use Safari.” But I don’t like Safari – you’ve got to understand – Firefox’s tabbed browsing and session management has changed my life.