Many web fonts don’t use hinting, thus look awful without ClearType or at least regular font smoothing.
An eventual fix of this in browsers was to activate font smoothing in the browser for all web fonts. This is a relatively good solution that came way too late, and the fact that Google’s own Chrome browser had this problem for a long time is facepalm-material, but nothing unexpected from a corporation too successful for everybody’s good.
For some reason, this problem occured only recently to me. I don’t know whether more and more websites are using web fonts as of late or whether something in the available range of fonts was changed, but ever since a few weeks ago when Google’s own sites started looking horrible (font name “Roboto”, which led me to talk about a web ro(t)botomy), more and more other websites showed the same problem. I also recently installed the joke font “Sans Bullshit Sans” in my system and now various websites are defaulting to that font. What the hell are web designers doing?!
I hate this for-mobile trend (because it very much has the smell of it) as much as the for-console trend in gaming. Is anybody surprised about the PC master race thing becoming popular if anything non-PC is getting worse and worse?
BTW probably the first occurence of ugly web fonts was when Valve changed the menu title font to an ugly one.
What are my options now? I intentionally don’t use font smoothing in Windows because I don’t like my computer UI to look like printed pages of text, and even less so ClearType because it looks awful with its chromatic aberration.
Update to a newer (than 30) Firefox version? No way in hell am I doing that just in hope that the issue has been fixed now while risking to render half of my (sadly very necessary) browser addons non-functional.
I tried a browser addon “Anti-Aliasing Tuner”, but it only alters rendering and alters anti-aliasing but doesn’t set when to use it and when not. If I activate smoothing with it, everything in Firefox will be smoothed; the whole UI.
It is really sad, because this whole thing isn’t necessary. Either browser developers should have reacted a long time ago or there shouldn’t be fonts that don’t utilize hinting for things like popular web application. It’s just the typical focusing on default settings for people who swallow everything as it comes, not someone who might disable font smoothing because it makes text unnecessarily ‘fuzzy’.
In my opinion there never should have been fonts used this way that absolutely rely on smoothing to look alright.
Also, if you install a web font in your system and use it in a word processor, you get the same horrible results. The print is good, but the display is horrible. I don’t know whether the for-print process applies smoothing automatically; not an expert in that. But fonts should simply be displayed properly without absolutely requiring post-processing. On principle, but practically speaking definitely not before devices are compatible (i.e. browsers applying good smoothing on web fonts).
For reference, this article has a comparison picture to show you how ugly some popular web fonts are natively:
Actually, it’s a mild case. Google’s Roboto looks much worse still. This posting has another example linked: http://ask.metafilter.com/249265/Google-Web-Fonts-are-rendering-horribly-on-my-Firefox-Chrome-browsers
What you might notice there is that a hinting-less font with smoothing still looks worse than an unsmoothed font that uses hinting, because the IE version shown in the picture still has those deviations of line thickness and such. It’s the original ugliness of the font merely paved over a little.