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Linear B is part of the Unicode standard since 2003. So why doesn't it display in my Firefox?

The website in question is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_B

Ubuntu 12.04 (64-bit) Firefox 14.0.1

Screenshot of the problem: http://i.stack.imgur.com/ovYxN.png

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Thank you so much to you all. That is very good information. I understand the issue much better now. I'm glad there are svg images for many of the symbols. And there's also a pdf list. However, for the missing ideograms there's nothing :-/ Guess I have to fiddle with fonts now. The Alphabeticum font seems amazing, by the way. –  Moralito Aug 23 '12 at 23:12

2 Answers 2

The font being displayed does not have the Linear B characters defined ; the numbered boxes show the Unicode points instead.

When I view the page in both Chromium and Firefox, I see the character replacement blocks, but also an SVG rendering of each character.

For a font containing the Linear B script, there is ALPHABETUM (complete with horrible MIDI music...)

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This is primarily a font problem. It generally takes more than ten years from the adoption of new characters into Unicode to their widespread availability in fonts. (Optimistically speaking. And I’m not joking.)

It’s also a browser issue, in the sense that when a web page does not specify fonts, or specifies them generically only, such as sans-serif, browsers will apply different strategies. When their default font does not contain all the characters present on a page, they will use different fallback fonts. And they may fail here—failing to render a character even when some font in the system contains it.

What you can do as a user is to download and install fonts that contain the characters. There are not many of them for Linear B; see http://www.fileformat.info/info/unicode/char/10083/fontsupport.htm As far as I know, the list on that page is complete except for the Alphabetum font and its free trial version Alpha-Demo, see http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphaeng.html But there might be some even more rare fonts that support (some of) Linear B.

You can also change your browser’s default fonts to view a page with such characters if it does not otherwise work. This is inconvenient because special fonts containing special fonts are not that great for normal browsing.

What you can do as a web author who puts such characters on a page is to declare a suitable font list, or “font stack”. For generalities, see my page Guide to using special characters in HTML. In this case, I would recommend the following (for elements containing Linear B characters):

font-family: "Everson Mono", Code2001, "MPH 2B Damase",
  Alphabetum, "ALPHA-Demo", LastResort;

Still, only a small fraction of visitors would see the characters right, so you might consider including some links to pages where suitable fonts can be downloaded.

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