I was looking over the Internet Exlporer 9.0 RC beta version. It's looking pretty good.
With this version comes long-awaited color management in Microsoft's browser. After IE9 is released and is adopted widely, virtually all the web browsers (IE, FireFox, Safari, Chrome) will provide color management. The balance will have tipped decisively.
Okay, so maybe IE9 won't be adopted instantly, but I predict it may well be adopted fairly quickly. It really does seem to work well, and even in public beta it already is on a few percent of the computers out there. And who knows, Microsoft could roll it out as a Windows Update.
Another given is that wide gamut displays are becoming more and more common.
What does this mean?
1. People who have wide gamut monitors and calibrated systems (or a monitor-specific profile other than the default sRGB profile) will see Adobe RGB and ProPhoto RGB images with more vivid colors than they will see in sRGB images.
2. Images that have already been posted with a color space other than sRGB will of course become livelier, as their dull, lifeless color will be accurate, and they'll look more consistent across virtually all the browsers. Finally.
In general, if we subscribe to the notion that livelier, more saturated colors catch attention better, you could say that publishing wide gamut images is becoming more attractive in the brave new world of ubiquitous color managed browsing.
So... Should we start publishing in wider gamut color spaces? If not now, when?
Of course, some people will still be running old web browsers. A few percent of my site visitors still run IE6 or older today. Include IE7 and it goes up to 10%. But these may not be the people with money to spend.
Publishing images as sRGB will probably remain the most consistent way to go for a little while longer. But we chance sRGB looking plain, dull, and lifeless next to more brightly colored images on the competition's web site.
Maybe the trend will be to move toward publishing without a color profile. At first blush that sounds like a bad idea, but wait: Some browsers just put such images on screen without doing any color transforms... IE9 does this and the image will use the full gamut of whatever display it's shown on. You might ask, "won't it look garish on a wide gamut monitor?" Sure, but isn't that kind of the goal with advertising? "Garish, in your face" sells more than "accurate". Use as much of each user's display as possible.
But maybe the better way to do that would be to publish images tagged with the widest possible gamut - ProPhoto RGB. With proper color management, surely an image could use all of the color gamut any conceivable monitor could give. But there might be weirdities with the way things outside the monitor gamut look.
Okay, perhaps Adobe RGB could be the right middle ground. More gamut than sRGB, not so much that it lays bare the differences between adjacent colors in 8 bit format, and it can carry pretty much all the colors that modern monitors can show.
None of this is new. I just figured with a major new entry into the color managed browser stable just around the corner, perhaps it's a good time to think about it again.