Color Profiles in Firefox 3

Deb Richardson wrote up an interesting piece today describing color profile support in Firefox 3. The result of a color profile is a more-accurate mapping from an original set of colors to better match the intended rendering. Profiles can be provided by the operating system (to provide better color distribution globally) or even locally by individual images.

For example, observe the following image which compares the difference between Firefox 2, Firefox 3 (with color profile support), and an image in Adobe Photoshop:

There is a noticeable difference between the rendering of the image in Firefox 2 compared to both Photoshop and Firefox 3 (in which they are rendered identically). All of this is due to the fact that Firefox 3 and Photoshop use the additional color profile information to get a better mapping of the resulting colors.

There’s one tricky point, however: Color profile support is disabled, by default, in Firefox 3. However, it can be quickly enabled by installing the Color Management Add-on or by twiddling some options in about:config.

The reasoning for the feature being disabled was outlined for two particular issues:

  1. There was a large 10-15% drop in performance when this feature was enabled. The extra time spent on large images began to add up quite quickly. Obviously this will be a point that’ll be worked on in upcoming releases – but introducing a regression that large was pretty much unacceptable.
  2. Plugins (such as Flash, Silverlight, Quicktime, etc.) did not do color profile correction, causing rough mis-renderings to occur. This correction is, unfortunately, left up to the plugins themselves – leaving this out of the realm of the browser itself. It’s unclear as to how this will be resolved.

At the very least, however, you can grab the Color Management Add-on with your copy of Firefox 3 and begin to view your pictures with an extra level of color and crispness.

Posted: April 29th, 2008

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