Firefox 3.5 support for color profiles has issues

firefox color exampleI upgraded last last week to Firefox 3.5, and soon after noticed images all displayed quite a bit darker (rough example to the right) with blocked up shadows, and odd color aberrations. Well, come to find out the new version supports embedded color profiles in uploaded images. This sounds all fine and dandy, but why was my Vista version showing all images incorrectly, but not any others or even Firefox 3.5 on my Mac lappy? Well, that’s a simple question to answer really – they screwed it all up.

As it turns out, Firefox 3 supports ICC profiles too, they just had it turned off by default, then decided to turn it on for 3.5. The problem is that there is a growing contingent of folks out there that this very well could be broken for, and aren’t really going to know why, or how to fix it. There are add-ons for color management, and you can adjust the color settings using the about:config, and setting gfx.color_management.rendering_intent to 0, there have even been quite a few suggestions floating around the web that it’s because of poor profiling on the publishers part, and they need to fix their images. That last bit sounds a lot like a Microsoft solution; our change is right, it’s you who is wrong, so go fix your crap. Even though it wasn’t Mozilla saying that, that’s a big problem.

Any time an application is changed in such a way that a significant portion of its users have the same problem, it ceases to be a user problem, and becomes an application bug. As the end user and published of content, I shouldn’t have to tweak my browser or go back and republish all of my images in order to support a change made by one application. That’s a poor solution given that I cannot affect the way other people view the web on any of my sites.

As it turned out, the real problem was that Firefox didn’t like the custom profile made for my monitors using a colorimeter, and after changing it back to Adobe RGB everything looks as it should; or at least as it did. This isn’t all that great either, since my monitors were calibrated quite nicely, just not Firefox’s liking. Granted, folks who actually have calibration hardware are small minority, but it makes me wonder if all of those folks aren’t having the same issue.

Color calibration and ICC support across the web is an admirable issue to try and tackle, one that is going to be about as fruitless as the war on drugs. Every computer displays color differently. They all have variations in video cards, monitors, cables, brightness/contrast settings, ambient light, the variances go on for miles, so getting images to display just so on the web is like trying to snatch a fly out of the air with chop sticks. Seems to me there are bigger fish to fry.

*NOTE: I just fixed the same issue on my work machine, which was just rebuilt last week with Vista Business, and had the same issue. Only the profile Firefox didn’t like in this instance was the default monitor profile selected by Vista after install.

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