Since this morning, Chrome’s font rendering on the Mac has changed. It is now horrible! I am running ver. 16.0.891.0 dev (this is the “dev channel”, i.e. in-development version); here’s a snippet from Daring Fireball as rendered by today’s Chrome:
And here’s the same snippet, as rendered by Safari 5.1:
Another example, this time from a Wikipedia page I reference below: today’s Chrome…
Until last night, I could not spot any difference in the rendering (or, if there were differences, they were not so jarring to my eye). Now, there are two key differences.
At the “macro” level, fonts as rendered by Chrome look thinner. Subjectively, they are not as legible. They also look slightly washed out.
At the “micro” level, if you magnify the Chrome and Safari snippets a few times, you will see that Safari uses subpixel rendering: loosely speaking, this means that the “edges” of character shapes (glyphs) are actually drawn in different colors, not just different tones of grays. On the other hand, Chrome seems to have inexplicably switched to purely grayscale rendering of fonts. [Note: the difference is even starker in the original TIFF screen captures, but you should be able to notice in the WordPress-friendly JPEG pictures posted above.]
The “micro” view explains the “macro” perception. Subpixel rendering is used precisely as a way to increase the perceived resolution, and—if used tastefully, as it is on Mac OS X—to achieve greater typographic fidelity. For whatever reason, today’s Chrome dev build seems to have switched that off.
Please, Google, bring subpixel-rendered fonts back, or I’ll have to switch to Safari. You already took away the ability to move between bookmark menus; please don’t take away my nice fonts!