December 27, 2000, 2:28 PM — What color is the sky? On the Internet, it might not be blue -- or at least not the right shade. Because of differences in monitors and other hardware inconsistencies, color isn't always what it seems. Sky blue might look like azure to one viewer and indigo to another.
Through the wonders of software, however, chartreuse can look like chartreuse no matter where it's displayed. E-Color of San Francisco, for example, has been bundling color-consistency software with monitors and printers since 1993. Now it's hitting the Web to bring users reliable colors without their fiddling with plug-ins or other burdensome Web tools. True Internet Color installs a cookie on an end user's hard drive, then takes the user through a brief setup process that optimizes the colors on the user's monitor. People need to set up E-Color only once; the software's cookie optimizes color at every website that uses E-Color.
A company with E-Color's color-optimization software at its site sends product images to E-Color. These images are displayed from E-Color's server rather than the company's, giving the images consistent colors for end users. So the sky is the same blue for everybody.
It's neat, but who really needs it? Lots of companies, according to Naill Kelly, vice president of marketing at Garmentrade.com, a San Francisco-based online marketplace for the apparel industry. Accurate color representations are critical in an industry in which the difference between crimson and fuchsia can mean dollars and sense. For example, without color accuracy, an apparel manufacturer might resist doing business with a supplier over the Web, saying, "Your color's off so you do me no good."
Furniture, cosmetics and home-goods retailers could also benefit. After all, mistakenly purchasing a hunter green jacket to go with pine green pants is no disaster, but painting your walls salmon only to see the mauve carpet you ordered online turn out to be pink, is enough to give any decorator the blues.