FireFox and the Webdings font

by James Cook on July 13, 2009

I recently receved this question from John via email:

You stated that Webdings were part of the Microsoft Core set of fonts that are pretty safe to use for web design….Pat had been saying for awhile that her hearts were not working on her website … and I would go and check and they were fine. When you mentioned the other day about viewing sites in different browsers,  I opened in FireFox and there was the problem. It turns her webding hearts into Y’s…

I am going to have to remove them … would you agree?

John, thanks for pointing this issue out. Since I don't normally use Webdings, I hadn't been aware of it.

Beginning with version 3, FireFox has made changes to the way it displays font characters that essentially break the Webdings font. There are valid reasons for doing this but so far, those reasons haven't convinced any of the other major browser makers (where Webdings continues to work).

The bottom line is this. Webdings is a dozen years old and encoded in a way that doesn't play well with emerging web standards. Given that fact it's unlikely that FireFox will change its ways and return to supporting WebDings. It's also likely that other browsers will also eventually "break" Webdings. So, if you've been using the font in your web pages, it's probably time to come up with another solution.

Since Webdings is essentially a graphic font the simplest solution is - as John suggests - to instances where you've used the font with images (and don't forget to include a descriptive alt tag).

It's just another case of evolving web technologies and standards rendering our "old" ways of doing things obsolete (think replacing HTML attributes with CSS styles and tables with divs) and it won't be the last!

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