Firefox 3: color managed web browser coming near to you

This thread on Ubuntuforums made me think about color management aware browser. Until now, only Safari (on MacOS X and Windows) and Explorer (on MacOS X) were CM aware, but now with the close release of Firefox version 3, CM will become a standard on MacOS, Linux and Windows…

So let’s see what it means and how to use it.

Enabling Color Management in Firefox version 3

By default, color management is disabled in Firefox 3. To enable it, just enter about:config in the address bar, promise to be careful to the popping window and type “color_management” in the filter. Change gfx.color_management.enabled to true. This means that Firefox will honor the profiles embedded to the images it displays.

The next thing you can do is point gfx.color_management.display_profile to your monitor ICC profile (if you have one available). This way, Firefox will optimize its color rendition for your monitor.

Close and restart Firefox to have your options taken into account. You can check this link to make sure it is properly working – the mountain image at the top should look normal (and not 4 quarters with different weirdo colors) .

What does it mean?

A web browser is not a photographic application; it won’t allow you to do stuff like converting a picture to your printer profile before printing. However with this new infrastructure, anyone with a CM aware browser will see your picture colors as closely as possible to how you see them on your own monitor. And this rocks.

To take advantage of that functionality however, your images have to have an ICC profile embedded in them – that is what happens by default in the Gimp when you convert an image to a profile, but with Cinepaint you have the choice to either embed the profile (make a copy of the profile inside your image file) or assign the profile to the image (put a note in the image that it should be opened with the specified profile). Obviously there is no way to guarantee that this or that specific profile will be present in any computer over the internet, so Firefox has to rely on embedded profiles.

Note that AdobeRGB or sRGB profiles weight about 1k. My printer profile, however, is 1.4MB so I certainly don’t want to embed it to my web images – but why would I?

How to take advantage of it?

So in order to take advantage of CM awareness in Firefox, just embed your profile in all your photos published on the web 🙂 I am using AdobeRGB as photo editing profile, but I will probably convert them to sRGB to avoid too much destruction on non CM aware browsers.

And by the way, ImageMagick (blog, web) supports converting to an ICC profile and embedding it with the following command:

convert -profile filename

and Phatch (blog, web) has support for it, too.

So one more tick to the list of “required features” for using Linux for photography.

And because this is a no-screenshot entry, let’s revive the tradition of the closing picture. Another one with my new 35mm, just a block away from my place.


8 Responses to Firefox 3: color managed web browser coming near to you

  1. Martin Ling says:

    Just a slight correction – you don’t have to have embedded profiles for this to work. An EXIF colour space tag in a JPEG can indicate that the image data is sRGB or AdobeRGB, and Firefox will honour this and use the standard profile for these spaces. The JPEGs output by most digital cameras will have this tag set. Current CVS versions of UFRaw will also write it when you choose an sRGB output – I fixed that recently. 🙂

  2. jcornuz says:

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the info. I didn’t had Cinepaint on the machine I tested Firefox3 with. Good to know and thanks for sharing.
    Good to see UFRaw making continuous progress, too.

    Take care,


  3. Jarno Suni says:

    I have used NativePC ICC profile (available from in WWW, since it works better with natural CRT output. Shadows in sRGB images seem darker if viewed by non-CM-aware browsers. I guess the EXIF colour space tag method don’t work for NativePC.

  4. FX Belloir says:

    many thanks for the head-up!

  5. Gary Johnson says:
    The above page reports that EXIF has two options, sRGB or uncalibrated. Adobe is probably the most frequently used other profile in cameras; however, it appears its not the only one.

    As discussed above, some color space (profile) must be assumed for the images created by your camera. If you are using a monitor and/or printer profile, some color space is being assumed for your images (out of the camera) whether you realize it or not! Let’s make sure we know the assumptions being made by our camera and our imaging software.

    Both the JPEG and TIFF image file specification include an option for embedding a profile that describes the color space for the images. Unfortunately, and for reasons still unclear to me, I don’t know of any camera manufacturer who chooses to utilize this feature, so there are almost no cameras that will specifically identify the color space of the image by embedding the profile for that color space even though it would require only about 500 bytes in the file header to do so. Instead, most manufacturers include the EXIF “color space” tag in the file header.

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