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 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. 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.