FontFonts on the Web, Starting Today
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.
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.
The FontFeed is a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world. Eat up.
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