Web browsers color management
Color management on the web is complicated a priori, and that for several reasons: you don't control anything anymore! You don't know on what monitor your photos will be displayed, you don't know if this monitor has been calibrated or not, you don't know whether it's a tablet or a computer screen, you don't know which browser your user is using hence if it uses ICC profiles management and finally, last but no least, if it's a wide gamut screen or not! You got the picture...
For a long time, the situation was stable, and above all, predictable. Not "theoretically" ideal but predictable. We'd found "tricks" to make our images display correctly on the web. Nowadays, the situation has improved and is not always ideal at the same time. Let's see why...
A bit of history first...
There's a before and an after wide gamut screens and browsers managing ICC profiles... There's also a before and after tablets and smartphones... When one gets better, the other keeps it from evolving!
Until recently, it was legitimately assumed that color management on the web was impossible. The reason for it is quite simple: browsers didn't bother with ICC profile management. Whether the image was tagged or not didn't change anything. But unfortunately, they all behaved roughly "as if" they were displayed in sRGB because all screens displayed more or less sRGB. Each RGB value in the image was then read into the color space of the screen hence alsmot sRGB. It was very convenient and acceptable. You just had to convert any image in sRGB then save it without its profile since the browser couldn't interprete it. It saved weight at the same time and since I knew the time when flow rates were 56K, it wasn't neglectable!
Now, in 2019 !
In one year the situation has changed a lot because almost all browsers for desktop computers but also for tablets and smartphones manage colors. To my knowledge, there is only the default Android Internet browser left, which plays the lazy role!
So we can consider that browsers manage their colors and even if it is more necessary than ever to incorporate an ICC profile in each image, we can really choose it freely today without major consequences for their display.
What is the best attitude to adopt after all?
First of all, see what it looks like thanks to these six photos on your screen and browser:
Replace the default value "2" by "1".
By doing this; you'll activate a complete color management in Firefox:
- If an image contains an ICC profile, it is read and interpreted correctly. The image is thus displayed with the "right" colors, whether your screen is wide gamut or not.
- If an image doesn't contain an ICC profile, then unlike the default value "2", your image is automatically assigned the sRGB profile and will thus also be displayed correctly, even on a wide gamut screen.
And finally, I invite you to watch the photos I shared above closely and tell me what you think about them. Personally, I note weird things depending on the browsers and on the monitor displaying this page. All of this is very weird so nothing is really cast in stone!