Blogs & Comment

More ammo in the war on printer ink

The World Wildlife Fund released a new file format – .wwf – that is essentially a PDF, but with the printing ability blocked out.

Regular readers are familiar with my intense hatred of the printer ink industry. So far, with the help of the iPad and some fantastic apps – such as SignMyPad – I’ve just about managed to eliminate the need to print anything and thereby avoid the criminally high prices charged by printer ink makers.

I’m always pleased to discover new aids in this struggle. So far, the PDF has been the ultimate weapon – it’s a versatile file format that can be read on almost any device and can be created from just about anywhere: Microsoft Word and Excel, Apple Pages and Numbers, Google Docs, and so on. Apps such as SignMyPad, meanwhile, enable the manipulation and modification of PDFs, which just about takes care of all my needs.

In December, the tree-hugging folks at the World Wildlife Fund added another dimension to PDFs. The one problem with the format is that, although it does discourage the use of paper – and thereby printer ink – it can still be printed out, which negates both benefits. As such, the WWF released a new file format – .wwf – that is essentially a PDF, but with the printing ability blocked out. Here’s a promo video:
The move has been controversial. For one, it’s not technically effective – anyone who actually wants to print a .wwf file has a myriad of workarounds to do so. Secondly, it wasn’t just the printer industry that wasn’t pleased – other factions within the WWF itself weren’t happy either. The file format was apparently developed and released as a worldwide product by WWF Germany without the consent of the larger organization.

A spokesperson for WWF International said the message was misleading. “The message must be revisited to say that WWF is not against using paper, but that we are calling to reduce wasteful consumption of paper,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Nevertheless, the .wwf website is still going strong despite WWF International’s desire to take it down. I’m not an enviro-nut but I’m going to give the new file format a try and see what happens. Anything to spite those printer ink people.

Peter Nowak is an award-winning journalist and author of the best-selling book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. He has been a staff writer for the CBC, National Post and New Zealand Herald, while his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail, among others. His personal blog can be found at