Update on Color Spaces: Windows is Color Stupid

It's been just over six months since I released my long writeup on digital image color spaces, and it seems to have been very well received. I appreciate all the wonderful feedback I've gotten about it.

However, I've recently realized that it contained a relatively big mistake. I've corrected it now, but in the original version, I repeated the “conventional wisdom” that most applications on Windows blindly treated color data as being sRGB color data. I called these applications “Color Stubborn.”

However, it seems that was wrong. Today I tested IE6, Firefox, and the popular IrfanView image viewer and found that they were “Color Stupid” in that they performed no color management at all.

This is depressing in every respect. It's depressing that this sad state of affairs exists, and it's even more depressing and embarrassing for me that I didn't test this for myself much earlier (such as, for example, before I published the writeup).

I should have fixed this error sooner. I was alerted to the issue two months ago when Matt Thomas left a comment telling that his experience was that Windows browsers and applications were Color Stupid. It raised my eyebrows at the time because I had taken the conventional wisdom at face value and had never thought to question it. Unfortunately, I was really busy at the time and neglected to follow up on it, and then it slipped my mind.

Someone brought up the issue in a forum at Digital Photography Review today, which prompted me to do some tests on my Windows XP system. I know that Photoshop is properly color managed, so I viewed the colorful petunias of yesterday's post in Photoshop and very carefully compared it to what I saw in IE6, Firefox, and IrfanView, and found the Photoshop rendition to be subtly but perceptibly different.

I then used Photoshop's soft-proofing function to view the sRGB image without monitor color management (that is, just letting the monitor deal with the sRGB data directly instead of converting to the monitor's color space first), and then saw exactly what I saw in the other applications.

I've updated the color-space writeup, but really, this is an unforgivable and horribly embarrassing error on my part. I hope no one ever finds out about it....

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