HTML 5 & web fonts; exciting times

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With (standards‐compliant) browser innovation firmly back on the agenda, there’s a lot of exciting new technology to get to grips with. This week, Google have thrown their weight firmly behind HTML5, while a new start‐up aims to bring web fonts to all.

Starting with the latter, I today discovered that Jeffrey Veen’s new company, Small Batch Inc., has started touting a new licensing service for web fonts. It’s called TypeKit and, while details are scarce, it seems to be a server to host web fonts with some Javascript magic to not make them downloadable to end users.

It’s an intriguing solution to the problem I mentioned before, even if I’m not convinced it is the right solution; without knowing the specifics, it seems to me there are two fairly obvious sticking points:

First, how do we develop the site using the font if the license is only for the production server? Will there be a special development license, or will we have to buy a copy of the font and then an extra licensing fee?

Second, what about server latency (will there be a long lag until the fonts appear?) and uptime (how irritating will it be if the server is constantly falling over?).

I look forward to seeing how those issues are addressed. I personally don’t see a problem in the current/forthcoming Safari/Firefox implementation — but then, I’m not a type foundry.

It’s Google’s I/O event this week, and they’re making a big deal about supporting some of the new HTML5 syntax — principally, the video element, an example of which is on this YouTube mock‐up (Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, or Chrome 3 required).

So stable is the new element that video site dailymotion.com have announced that they have converted 300,000 of their videos to use it, and the open video codec Ogg Theora. With all of the main non‐IE browsers about to launch their implementation, adoption will hopefully be pretty rapid.

8 comments on
“HTML 5 & web fonts; exciting times”

  1. It makes me wonder what direction IE is going to take, with it being left so far behind in terms of standards and new tech. Think they might ever go to an open source rendering engine and keep the IE shell?

  2. There is another solution offered by Typotheque. I quite like it as it doesn’t use js, and uses TTF (and EOT for IE). All you need to do, is to include a link to their css file. It even supports multi‐lingual fonts.

    Interesting thing about Typotheque solution is they intend to charge according to bandwidth usage (which I think seems sensible).

    Of course, these solutions are temporary, and I think the long range outlook is to have .WOFF (Web Open Type Format) and/or EOTL (the EOT without the offending bits).

    It does seem like Font Foundries are resigned to having raw font linking support on browsers. But, the large size of raw fonts might reduce their usage.

  3. Hi Divya,

    I believe the Typekit and Typotheque solutions are quite similar, although AFAIK Typotheque will only be offering their own fonts this way, not other foundries’.

    I look forward to a long‐term solution that doesn’t involve us paying extra for our fonts.

  4. So here’s a question from a relative CSS noob then: what about the fonts you’re using on this webpage? Are those completely license free? The Typekit PR made it sounds like even free fonts were usually licensed.

  5. Daniel,

    I think the point they were trying to make is that just because a font costs nothing, you shouldn’t assume you’re able to use it however you want. I’m using Graublau Sans Web which is explicitly licensed for use with font embedding.

    WebFonts.info has a good list of fonts (both free and paid‐for) which you can embed on your pages.

    If you want to use a font which isn’t in that list, make sure you check that the license allows you to use it in your pages.

  6. Aaah I see! Thanks for the reply. Then I guess another possible future (if the typekit‐like endeavours don’t work for whatever reason) is that we’ll simply end up with a set of good looking fonts specifically licensed for web usage. I guess “a font I designed is used by 13% of the internet” would look good on a designer’s CV. FWIW, GrauBlau Sans looks very shiny on this here page. It was actually the first thing that caught my eye.

  7. I don’t see why we should have to pay for how many people see or use the font, we buy fonts right now and it can be on the cover of newsweek and its no big deal, but if I want to use a font on the internet suddenly its a big deal.

    Just sell the fonts, make a way for us to use the fonts to design sites, and that others cannot download it. and its all the same.

    whats the big deal, I use fonts in flash based web sites all the time, I buy them, use them, my sites look great and unique. If html5 wants to be real it needs to work this way.

  8. I’m with you on this one, Dustin; we should be able to buy fonts for the web as we do for print, and not have to pay to rent them.