FontFonts on the Web, Starting Today

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News | Stephen Coles | November 18, 2009

If you have an interest in design or technology, you’d have to be living under a rock without wi-fi to be unaware of the recent buzz surrounding web fonts. In short, live type on the web has always been limited to a handful of system fonts. But that era is over. And FontShop is ready to deliver FontFonts for the web, starting today with Typekit. But first, a little history.

How Web Fonts Became a Reality (in 200 Words or Less)

The August 2007 announcement of the “@font-face” CSS declaration led to two years of intense anticipation, hesitation, speculation, and — finally — innovation. Web browser support of this rule meant that one could write simple code to define non-system fonts in a style sheet. When a visitor loaded the web page the fonts would automatically download — just like images — load in their system, and then render in the browser. Web designers applauded the development, seeing it as the critical first step in bringing freedom of font choice to the web. Type designers held back, concerned that the method distributed work too openly and made no distinction between fonts made and licensed for print and those made and licensed for the web. Months passed, seemingly without much progress. The web had the technology, but it didn’t have the fonts.

2009 brought two crucial developments that broke the deadlock: Typekit and the Web Open Font Format (WOFF). The first is a service which hosts fonts and serves them in an optimized, secure way. The second is a new font format designed specifically for the web. The importance of these two breakthroughs was made clear three weeks ago at Typ09 in Mexico City where industry leaders came to the consensus that the delivery mechanism is no longer a sticking point; what is in question now is the quality of type on various browsers, displays, and devices. As Simon Daniels so aptly put it: “the war is over … now it’s time to win the peace.”

Building FontFonts for the Web

How will we win the peace? By delivering well-crafted fonts that will work beautifully on the web right now. Those aforementioned months of what seemed like a silent impasse were actually very busy ones for the designers and engineers at FSI FontShop International in Berlin. They were hard at work fine-tuning FontFonts for the web. The process starts with choosing the right typefaces — some type simply wasn’t meant for screens and rendering schemes as they exist today, but some type is ideal for the web. Features are then pared down to those supported by current browsers to make the fonts as efficient as possible, reducing file sizes and reducing page load time. Finally, the fonts’ TrueType hinting is improved for the most optimal display on all systems.

FontFonts on the Web Today via Typekit

Now that some of the most popular FontFonts are ready, it’s time to make them available for use. Partnering with Typekit is the logical first step. The subscription model is forward-thinking and economical. The service is simple and intuitive. The distribution network is reliable and scalable. And, most importantly, the people at Typekit share the same kind of entrepreneurial, progressive spirit that launched FontShop 20 years ago. It’s a great match. So, starting today, Typekit users can pick from dozens of FontFonts, including FF Meta, FF Dax, and FF Netto. Plus, the Typekit service lets you test any of those FontFonts on your page before you publish. Like Erik Spiekermann said, seeing how the type will look in real life “makes a helluva difference”. FontFonts work wonderfully with the service and The FontFeed is a case-in-point. The headlines here are in FF Enzo served by Typekit.

FontFont on Typekit
Typekit offers a selection of FontFonts with more to come soon. Any paid subscriber can access all available FontFonts right now. Trial users can use FF Enzo, FF Nuvo, and FF Mach.

FontFonts on the Web Tomorrow via WOFF

Typekit is just one piece of a holistic strategy for FontFonts on the web. The library should be licensable in a more traditional way too. That’s where WOFF fits in. When Erik van Blokland (a FontFont designer himself) and Tal Leming announced their compressed, secure web font format, FSI immediately endorsed the effort. When Mozilla announced that Firefox 3.6 would support the format, Edenspiekermann and FSI published a sample page using a WOFF version of FF Meta — proof that there will be web-optimized FontFonts to come. Soon anyone will be able to license and download for their website the same professional quality FontFont they use in desktop applications, but crafted specifically for the new medium.

A Third Way

Interested in using a FontFont that isn’t yet available on Typekit? You might not have to wait. FontShop is already partnering with sites to serve other FontFonts in the next few weeks. Contact us.

That’s it for now. There will be more FontFont and FontShop announcements on this topic to come soon. It’s been fascinating to watch the thorny, complex saga of web fonts unfold over the last two years, but now the scene is brighter. The next chapter of this story is going to be a lot more fun.

Update: Feb 23, 2010 — The stand-alone WOFF option we promised above is now a reality. FontShop just released Web FontFonts.

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  1. This is fantastic news! I’m finally going to see my favorite typeforms where I consume most of my written word content.

    Posted by Michael Critz on Nov. 18, 2009
  2. Yes!

    Posted by zeldman on Nov. 18, 2009
  3. What browser do you need to be able to see the new fonts?

    Posted by Matt on Nov. 18, 2009
  4. Great to see that FF Meta is coming to the web.

    Posted by Jan Vantomme on Nov. 18, 2009
  5. No more Arial and Georgia? Web design will start to involve design in the realm of typography.

    Posted by MattCoops on Nov. 18, 2009
  6. FontFonts for live text on websites, splendid news! The best thing to happen to the Web since computers.

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Nov. 18, 2009
  7. Sounds pretty awesome. I’m not sure that I’m a huge fan of the Tisa, but I am excited about seeing a variety of fonts on the web now–whether I like them or not. Thanks for the update/explanation.

    Posted by Zack! on Nov. 18, 2009
  8. This is great news! Very nice to see.

    I was a little shocked that TypeKit does not seem to support kerning however.

    Posted by Göran on Nov. 18, 2009
  9. This is really great news! More quality fonts on Typekit is sweet, but I’m even more interested in seeing how others, both browser developers and type manufacturers, will embrace WOFF in the near future. Typography on the web is getting better by the minute. Great work!

    Posted by Christofer on Nov. 18, 2009
  10. Not impressed. This begs for only the most credulous of users, or at least those with poor enough eyesight not to see how terrible the fonts look.

    Posted by Eric on Nov. 18, 2009
  11. new site is in development as we speak. can’t wait to use this.

    Posted by Drew Stauffer on Nov. 18, 2009
  12. This is huge news. It will be interesting to see how fonts are abused in the near future, and then how good design rises to the surface.
    Just because you CAN use a different font, doesn’t mean you should.. remember the blink tag? hehe

    Posted by JoshuaNTaylor on Nov. 18, 2009
  13. Don’t forget about Kernest:

    Posted by A.Fruit on Nov. 18, 2009
  14. I was a little shocked that TypeKit does not seem to support kerning however.

    As far as I know, kerning support is dependent on the browser. Firefox does support kerning and you can see evidence of negative kerns above where “Web” “WOFF” is set in FF Enzo.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Nov. 18, 2009
  15. Meh…unless the technology offers you to display whatever font you have license to use is FREE, it won’t see a broader audience. How should I explain to a client that he has to pay 25 bucks per year so the fancy typeface I’ve choosen for his site is visible to the whole world? No way…I know, this sound cheap, but that’s the reality.

    Posted by Ivan Philipov on Nov. 18, 2009
  16. Oh, and I just checked Typekit site under Chrome and IE 8 – not working. I can only see actual fonts under Firefox…comfortable, right? Maybe in another 10 years.

    Posted by Ivan Philipov on Nov. 18, 2009
  17. FWIW:

    Safari/Mac is displaying the specified fonts rather nicely.

    FF/Mac I’m seeing Helvetica and Georgia.

    FF/Windows, I am seeing the specified fonts, but they look god-awful. The rendering is clumpy and the kerning is non-existent; it is painful to read.

    I certainly look forward to these things smoothing out, as it were. Meantime, from what I’ve seen (limited as it may be) I’d keep the system fonts in place for legibility on Windows.

    Here’s to evolution and resolution of web typography…

    Posted by Ian Adelman on Nov. 18, 2009
  18. Fortunately, with conditional stylesheets, you can keep Typekit fonts for your Mac visitors and display the old defaults for those poor visitors with Windows rendering.

    Not sure why your Mac Firefox isn’t loading the fonts. Version?

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Nov. 18, 2009
  19. How should I explain to a client that he has to pay 25 bucks per year so the fancy typeface I’ve choosen for his site is visible to the whole world? No way…I know, this sound cheap, but that’s the reality.

    This entirely depends on the client. For a small not-for-profit organisation I understand, and then you should stick to the default fonts. But starting from mid-sized companies (heck, even small businesses and one-man operations) it is not that hard to convince your client of the value of properly licensed type, also on the web. I’m talking from professional experience here. Without wanting to sound arrogant, maybe you are not selling your story right.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 19, 2009
  20. @stewf – i’m on FF/MAC 3.5.5 and i see this:

    it doesn’t look right to me. I have Chrome/WIN at work and it looked better. fyi.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 19, 2009
  21. @Simon, the font support in Firefox is being added to Firefox 3.6, which should be fully released by the end of the year.

    Posted by Wes on Nov. 19, 2009
  22. You may be thinking of WOFF, Wes. Typekit fonts (such as those used by this site right now) should work in Firefox 3.5.5. Simon, do you have javascript disabled by chance?

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Nov. 19, 2009
  23. @stewf
    Any plans to post which typefaces are used in your article headings, body, etc.? I’d love to see names listed with the examples we’re seeing.

    Posted by Josh on Nov. 19, 2009
  24. I mentioned the fonts above but maybe my piece put you to sleep. ;)

    The text you’re reading is now set in FF Tisa with headlines in FF Enzo, all served by Typekit.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Nov. 19, 2009
  25. Yeah, I got that. What I really meant was in general . . . whenever you change them. I noticed you’ve got the same happening on the FFeed homepage, so I’m guessing it’s site-wide via Typekit. I was just wondering whether you planned on changing them every so often and how you would let us know without clicking on a specific article—not like I’m not stopping by almost every day anyways!

    Posted by Josh on Nov. 19, 2009
  26. BTW, it looks great! I’m loving all the advances lately.

    Posted by Josh on Nov. 19, 2009
  27. @stewf – i don’t think i have anything disabled… if i do it’s whatever the default is… err….

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 20, 2009
  28. ok… weird… it looks fine now… maybe it needed a hard refresh????

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 20, 2009
  29. Great news indeed. Though, as someone else hinted, Typekit isn’t the best alternative for “the rest of us” so it would be nice to see your fonts delivered through other channels as well, but it’s early days yet. ;)

    I do hope you’ll follow Typotheque’s lead when it comes to license options though, and if I’m interpreting you right it seems that you may be doing that.

    Posted by Fred K on Nov. 20, 2009
  30. seeing FF Enzo here makes me wanna sign up for TypeKit… oh and I noticed FF Meta Serif is over there as well… another great reason to get TypeKit…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 21, 2009
  31. ok, so i was very wrong about WIN/Chrome displaying correctly. It does not. :-(

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 23, 2009
  32. These are fantastic additions. Is there any chance of FF Netto bold being added to the collection. Typeskit is sorely lacking a decent rounded font in a strong weight.

    Posted by Stephen on Nov. 24, 2009
  33. There will be more FontFonts available via TK in the future, but we can’t say yet which fonts exactly. I’m sure there will also be some decent rounded fonts in strong weights available.

    Posted by Ivo on Nov. 25, 2009
  34. this is great news. would love to get some FF typefaces on our site. would love to get FF DIN. :)

    Posted by kyle on Feb. 18, 2010
  35. This is a great move forward for online fonts. Unfortunately it won’t gain momentum until it works right on a majority of browsers/systems. I can’t wait to fiddle with it myself but it will be years before there is enough browser support for it to make sense for my clients.

    Posted by Susan Rubinsky on Feb. 19, 2010
  36. Susan, while the Typekit application used for selecting and adding fonts to your website currently works in Safari 3.1 or higher and Firefox 3.5 or higher, the Typekit fonts you use on your website will render in all major browsers that support the CSS @font-face rule. This includes Firefox, Safari, and IE6+.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 20, 2010
  37. Great news! Nice opportunity for Web Designers and Developers. And a awesome opportunity for type designers and retailers.

    Works fine on Firefox 3.6
    Works fine on Google Chrome

    It doesn’t work on IE 8.0.6001.18882.
    It doesn’t work on Opera 10.10 Built 1893


    Posted by Kerem Demir on Feb. 25, 2010
  38. Yeah, why not FF Netto Bold? Having only one weight makes the font pretty unusable for Web use, don’t you agree?

    Posted by Alex on Sep. 10, 2010

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