Custom Web Fonts: Pick Your Poison

Early in every web designer’s experience is a crushing moment of realization: the moment you discover that you can only use a small collection of fonts on the Web—and that all the good ones have already been used to death.

“Hooray!” thinks the naive Web newbie, checking out the font-family property for the first time. “I can spend the afternoon picking the font that perfectly reflects my personality for my new blog!”

And yes, sure enough, you can stick any font name you like in your CSS, and your browser will use the font on your system to display it:

.post {
  font-family: Papyrus, sans-serif;
}

The problem is what everyone else sees when they visit your site. If they don’t happen to have that font that is “just so you!” installed on their own system, they’ll see a generic font, most likely a downright boring one like Arial or Helvetica, instead.

Back in 1998, CSS2 proposed a solution to this in the form of the @font-face at-rule, which in theory would let you define custom fonts that would be downloaded by the browser from your web site:

@font-face {
  font-family: Papyrus;
  src: url(/fonts/papyrus.ttf);
}

On the surface, @font-face seems like it would be a godsend to web designers. So why has no meaningful support existed for it until very recently? Read on to find out…

First on the Scene

The problem with custom fonts is that fonts are not free. They are a lot of work to design—especially the ones that contain most of the characters available for use on the Web. Consequently, the vast majority of fonts (yes, even the ones that came with your computer) are licensed under terms that describe how they can be used.

Assuming you came by them honestly, you are allowed to use all of the fonts on your computer to design things from Word documents to logos on the Web, and you can do whatever you want with those things—give them away, or sell them for money—but you can’t give away or sell the font file itself.

This presented a problem for the first browsers that added support for custom fonts. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Navigator 4 both had to tiptoe around the legal issues by developing their own font file formats that enforced the restrictions spelled out in font licenses.

Netscape 4 eventually died off, of course, and was reborn as Firefox, which has no custom font support. Internet Explorer, however, still supports custom fonts in Embedded OpenType (EOT) format today. Nobody uses it, however, because a) it’s IE-only, and b) none of the font companies have said it’s okay to distribute fonts in EOT format, either.

Apple Leads a Renaissance

The Netscape/Microsoft stalemate left designers skeptical about custom font technologies, and they got used to working with Verdana. For a while, it seemed like text on the Web would forever look the same.

Then, late last year, Apple announced that it was adding support for @font-face to Safari, and that it would work with plain, old TrueType font files—just like the ones designers collect in the hundreds and thousands! Would other browsers quickly follow suit?

a screenshot from Apple’s Safari 3.1 announcement

In March 2008, Safari 3.1 was released with great fanfare. In its marketing for the launch, Apple boldly touted the fact that designers could “use any font they want to create stunning new websites using standards-based technology.” This announcement seemingly ignored the licensing terms of almost every font in the world—including Apple’s own fonts! Font designers were outraged.

The other browsers aren’t rushing to repeat Apple’s mistakes, but Apple has stirred up enough renewed interest in custom fonts for them to take a second look. In response, Microsoft has renewed its commitment to Embedded OpenType (EOT) format by opening it up for implementation by other browsers, and submitting it to the W3C for standardization.

One major font producer has announced its support for EOT, and has launched a site to lobby other producers to do the same.

Embedding vs. Linking

The big difference between linking to simple TrueType font files the way Safari allows and using Microsoft’s EOT format is that EOT can effectively “embed” the font in your web site. The EOT format ties the font file to your site’s domain name(s), so that it cannot simply be downloaded and re-used on another site.

This is effectively the same thing that happens when you use a custom font in a PDF file, or Flash movie. In all these formats, a motivated hacker could extract the font data and reassemble it as an unrestricted TrueType file, but the font data is distributed in a package that makes clear that such use is not allowed under the license. Font embedding is not about preventing piracy, it’s about making it clear that redistributing a commercial font is piracy.

Web designers, font producers, and browser vendors are now joining the debate over which approach to custom fonts makes the most sense for the Web. On the one hand, many designers argue that font producers should trust us to do the right thing. We don’t need a special embedding format for the images we use on our sites, so why do we need one for fonts?

On the other hand, font producers consider a font file to be a software tool for creating content, not content itself. Just as you aren’t allowed to distribute Microsoft Word to let visitors to your site view the Word documents you publish there, you can’t publish a raw font file to enable people to view content designed with that font.

Many web developers believe that embedding formats like EOT amount to Digital Rights Management (DRM), a technology that has proven disastrous to the music industry. Some have even suggested that the Web can do without commercial fonts entirely, and that we should make do with free fonts. It turns out that even popular “free” fonts like those created by Ray Larabie come with licenses that limit how they can be distributed. Larabie had this to say when discussing Safari’s font linking approach:

When it comes to my freeware fonts, I’m more reluctant to allow them to be used that way.

On his personal blog, Microsoft’s Chris Wilson has weighed in with a pragmatic analysis of the situation: Commercial font producers will never agree to allow font linking as supported by Safari, and open source fonts are unlikely to stack up in terms of quality or variety anytime soon. If we want to use commercial fonts on the Web legally, some form of embedding must be used, and EOT is the only open format for font embedding currently on the table.

What do you think? Should other browsers implement Microsoft’s EOT format, or should we push for Safari-style font linking, no matter what font producers say?

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  • thacker

    Yank–

    You are incorrect in stating that Ascender has approved or supports EOT. Such has been clearly pointed out within Ascender’s blog at fontembedding.com via Ascender’s EULA.

  • Dan

    If we need to use some sort of proprietary embedding technology as well as CSS, then how is this an improvement over the choices we currently have, between (a) using an inline img, (b) using siFR or (c) using the font-family property to specify some fallback fonts?

    IMHO, either CSS should evolve to handle all the page styling our designers require, or we need to resign ourselves to the fact that CSS isn’t a one-stop-shop.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    thacker, I suggest you read Ascender’s press release. They have yet to offer EOT licensing for their fonts, but they are clearly in favor of the technology, and are working on the necessary license changes.

  • http://www.talkholdem.com/ WhSox21

    Custom font support is something us web developers need, hands down.

    I’m going to have to agree that using a special format such as EOT is going to be the best route. Yes, it may be a Microsoft standard currently, but as long as they get the W3C to support it then it will become more than just a Microsoft standard.

    The only way I can see this working properly is by having an online conversion tool where developers who have purchased the licenses can upload the original font files and it will return the EOT file which would be restricted for use on one website.

    Now the problem with that is, who’s going to handle all of that? Do all font producers have websites where they could distribute the EOT files to their past customers who have purchased other formats of their fonts? I’d take a wild stab and say no.

    EOT will need to become a standard and from there the W3C can determine the best way to resolve any issues with this being a standard. I’d imagine W3C could handle all of this relatively easily.

    The only other option I can think of for the commercial font producers to actually sell EOT files licensed per domain.

    Sorry for the rambling, been up way to long today. :)

  • http://www.yellowshoe.com.au/ markbrown4

    If Apple doesn’t have their pants sued off them – doesn’t it mean that there’s nothing legally wrong with the linking of true type fonts?

    Maybe there could be an online font directory which packages all the free fonts – and custom font’s that come with Windows and MacOS(granted the font makers permission). Then the powers that be can monitor the font’s that are accessible and pay the font makers their fair share.

    Otherwise we’ll need to continue to embed the font’s in another file somehow like sifr, though having to resort to flash for this is a shame.

  • Preachmedia

    Hats off to Apple for pushing the envelope, but I have to agree that EOT or something similar will probably be the most likely adopted format.

    I also agree with WhSox21 on the messiness of an online conversion tool. I think it more feasible to have an online font repository that designers could subscribe to. It could be like iStockPhoto for fonts. A designer isn’t going to use 50 different fonts on a site (at least they shouldn’t) and a small fee for a font could easily be passed on to the client.

    I think these are some exciting times to be a web designer as standards are finally becoming more commonplace. I would be very interested in seeing a standard develop for font usage.

  • Justen

    I think we’re going to see a combination of methods which will ultimately drive font creators to change their tune and lead to broader support for open-source as we do in every other media production industry. First, we’ll see a variety of EOT-licensed fonts trickling out, and a few open-source fonts running parallel to them. After custom fonts become standard on the web, we’re likely to see higher demand for free, open-source fonts and a larger amount of font “piracy”, likely followed by some legal backlash, a lot of hoopla and eventually a situation where fonts are going to get used whether the font creators like it or not and they have to start thinking about better models for generating profit that are as easy as “stealing”.
    So basically the same way it has happened with professional scribes when the printing press came out and every other media revolution since.
    In the meanwhile, if Microsoft wants to develop open standards and submit them to the W3C, I say hell yes, give them a pat on the back and encourage them to do it more often. It’s a major step in the right direction for them and helps all of us; let’s just hope EOT becomes a standard format for the @font-face command instead of some proprietary tag or other ickiness.

  • nathj07

    There are viable, and I believe legal, alternatives – SIFR is the one that springs to mind. That said, this is really only a case of working around annoying restrictions. As a web developer it would make my life a lot easier of we could embed fonts on websites – all fonts, even if we had to pay extra for the initial purchase – that would be a fair trade off. Perhaps if there was some way of encrypting the data that the server understood to serve the page to the browser. this would then have the font server side. Trouble is that display is a generally a client side issue.

    The long and the short of it is that while there are technologies to assist in this web developers ultimately need to be able to embed fonts on their sites.

  • jaq

    Maybe @font-face should allow only local urls. With this approach, font creators can spot license violators – it’d be the one who creates the page and owns it.

  • SSJ

    Hats off to Apple for pushing the envelope, but I have to agree that EOT or something similar will probably be the most likely adopted format.

  • John

    I would love the ability to embed fonts because that way, you do not need to upload fonts on the user’s machine. I keep finding new fonts in my system which I never have seen before and that is an argument against the current method because as a user, I do not want a font folder stuffed with junk fonts I did not ask for. First of all, it fills up my harddrive and it makes me an unwilling pirate.
    So, I think it is unwise of Apple to promote this method. We should go for embedding, just like pdf. It does surprise me somewhat that it is Apple proposing this, I would have thought that it would be typically Apple to come up with the embedding idea. Looks like the Microsoft boys had an attack of inspiration this time.
    For the record: I use both Mac and PC, I’m not a zealous fan of either system. :-)

  • dpages

    I was recently on a course with someone who develops pages in Farsi. For him IE and EOT is the only game in town – otherwise his only option would be the equivalent of my having to create every single web page using san-serif.

    I’ve used it myself recently on a site which the clients insisted had to use a corporate font. I had to explain that it was IE-only, and I did feel slightly dirty afterwards and chant “I will develop using web standards” 40 times as penance, but I remember thinking that it seemed like a reasonable compromise between my creative freedom and protecting intellectual property of the font designer.

    I’ll say it quietly, but I don’t mind it being a Microsoft technology as long as its made an open standard. After all, speaking as a designer (albeit not a font designer), having a font and not being able to use it in front of a potentially huge audience seems a bit daft – it’d be a bit like me designing a great advert for myself and then only putting it in my own office window.

    Perhaps one of the things that may placate a font designer would be if meta data could allow design details (name of font, foundary and where it’s available from) to be embedded so if you like its look, you can go and get a legal copy yourself.

  • nathj07

    “I’ll say it quietly, but I don’t mind it being a Microsoft technology as long as its made an open standard”

    Isn’t that asking for rather a lot!

    “having a font and not being able to use it in front of a potentially huge audience seems a bit daft – it’d be a bit like me designing a great advert for myself and then only putting it in my own office window”

    That’s a great way of putting it. There are loads of plug-ins for site development that insist on you keeping a certain comment in the code. I would have no problem doing that for a font.
    Of course there is another solution.

    I came across this the other day and it made me cry. Write every page as an image and then load the image. This was an image map to handle the navigation etc. It was awful and I hasten to add it is something I would never do!

  • O_o.moo

    Well I recon with all the rendering differences between the browsers at the moment, using images and the standard typefaces available ain’t that big a problem. That’s just me though.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    Write every page as an image and then load the image. This was an image map to handle the navigation etc. It was awful and I hasten to add it is something I would never do!

    I’ve seen this far too often. Whoever produces these sites should be ashamed. The unsuspecting (including one of my friends who didn’t ask advice first) end up paying for these ‘web sites’.

  • nathj07

    I think we should introduce a new web standard that allows all good developers to identify those who produce sites as just images and then take them out back and have them shot.

  • arts-multimedia

    I think uploading fonts to someone’s computer is a daft idea from the start. It messes up your font folder and it makes you into a pirate without even knowing it.
    Embedding is a great idea, I’m surprised it comes from Microsoft and I’m equally surprised that Apple rakes up @font-face again. But they probably wanted to get more attention for Safari, which is not really catching on like they had hoped it would.

    Embedding will do away with the problem of licensing as you do not transfer a font. Font designers will not like my proposal, but I don’t think font designers should get extra payment for it, because there is no difference between publishing a book or a website.
    And I do not think they should get a meta tag either. The software that is responsible for the creation of fonts should be able to export to the EOT format, along with the regular formats. (At least, I hope that will be possible.)

    Meta tags are not meant to advertise services.
    I know it is becoming more and more a habit to put irrelevant messages in meta- or comment tags, but I’m against the practice. Before we know, we will be forced to mention every piece of technology involved in the end product, like who created GIF, JPEG, .MOV etc… I’m overdoing it here a bit, of course, but I think most of us will know what I mean :-)

  • Ron

    “. . . open source fonts are unlikely to stack up in terms of quality or variety anytime soon.”

    Where do I get them? Is there a central source for unrestricted fonts? I’d be happy to at least start with the unrestricted fonts, if I can find them. For that matter, if there’s a central registry of unrestricted fonts, then those could be linked in any browser without hassles.

    As Preachmedia says, a designer whose client wants the “perfect” font can just pass the cost through. As far as protecting their designs, I wish the designers luck, but so far, anything that doesn’t depend on a physical medium for expression is mostly unprotectable.

  • jnrdesigns

    I’m just thinking out loud here but if we used the font-family method to put fonts on our sites wouldn’t that font get used a lot more. And in the process more than half of the people our there would pirate the font sure enough, BUT some of them would actually do the right thing and buy the license. I could see the font designers’ sales increasing exponentially simply from the exposure.

    Of course, I’m no marketing genius and I’m sure my theory has plenty of holes in it so if you’re a font designer don’t take it too hard :)

  • franglix

    Hi Kevin – thanks for setting out the current situation. I have an idea I want to throw into the ring on this issue…
    If commercial font producers are understandably so precious about their profits, why not try a strategy which gives them that fortune (or fame). Ask known producers/copyright owners of popular how much they actually stand to make with one of their fonts.
    Bearing in mind that everyone has their price and positive publicity makes good business sense, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, an open competition could then be created for the next six Web ubiquitous font candidates, the next ‘super six’ (or three). Then if conditions are calculated right:
    – Openly set up the threshold conditions at which a super-six winner would be declared – get W3C in on this & major browsers on board,
    – Get web designers to suggest new candidates, have a vote on their top six wanted, debate and discuss,
    – Get producers/copyright holders who are in on the idea profiled so they get the publicity (and no doubt business). [Cutting edge producers may like this, copyright holders may not]
    Alert those who are being voted for, as they are receiving votes to flatter and motivate them to set up their profile.
    – After an appropriately reasonable period – 6 to 12 months – declare the winners who meet the requirements (votes and willingness) and who will become part of Web history,
    make the fonts available without restriction, and give them permanent credit for being part of that history,
    breathe fresh air into the diversity of fonts fully supported by browsers.

    It would be tricky to get right, but I am sure there’s a pathway in it to reach the aims that have been stated above. Sure there are holes (I’d like to hear about them to refine the idea). It could however be a win-win situation.

  • dpages

    Just leafing through my spanking new copy of the Ultimate HTML Reference (available from all good Sitepoint websites), if we agree not to use the meta element, then what about using link?

    <link href=[location where the font is available] rel="license" /<

    Or, in the same way as favicon.ico icons uses rel=”shortcut icon”, create a new accepted value for rel=”font”?

    Admittedly, in use, something like this means a tiny bit more work, but in the same way as I try to stick to the DCMI guidelines for metadata, and take a fair bit of pride in using web standards and checking for accessibility, I’d be willing give this a go as an additional way of showing I care about these issues.

    I agree that there will always be those who hack and crack their way through DRM, but I’d like (again as a designer) to make it easy for those who want to show respect for the creative endevours of others by obtaining a legal version of a font that I like the look of.

    To use another analogy, on nearly every bit of print we do, and every website, we reproduce our company name and contact details, so if someone likes what we’ve done they don’t have to sweat too much to get in touch. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable ask for font designers to expect to get credit for their work in some way.

    Better still would be to make the embedding of this information part of an open standard for the EOT format, which could then be picked up and reported to an end user who wanted more information through their browser.

    Font designers always have the option to make their fonts ‘unembeddable’ if they really have a problem with making them available to a web audience, anyway.

  • Vangelis

    Linking is The Right Thing.

    The web should be open. There are no technical restrictions protecting the rights of image, css, html and javascript-producers and there shouldn’t be for videos, audios or fonts.

    Linking is the way the web works.

    DRM is a horrible idea and so is font embedding. Why should i have to download an embedded font if i have it legally in my fonts-folder?
    A browser is a sufficiently complex piece of software as it is, there is no need to put the additional burden of locking down fonts on it.

    Just like anyone else copyright owners of ttf files can sue anybody whom they feel is violating their rights.

  • nea

    just do it both ways… and use the one thats fits best in a given situaton …what’s rong with that?

  • mavicode

    This is my first forum posting here on Sitepoint, and this is an excellent article with some terrific insight and comments.

    As a professional graphic designer, teacher, and someone who’s been working in this business for many years, I know how important typography is as a design tool. One thing that always seems to get overshadowed in discussions of fonts/type/text, however, is *content* – and despite all of the tools at our disposal to dress information up, it’s still content that is paramount. I firmly believe that as designers, we need to change the way we look at digital information by giving our designs maximum flexibility in the way that they display information on multiple platforms. You shouldn’t have fonts pushed at you from a website just because a designer thinks that’s the way it should be. If a client wants to look at something in 18pt magenta Comic Sans on a black background, let them. We’ll just go quietly barf in a corner somewhere.

    If any of you remember back to the absolute earliest days of the web, with its extremely simple formatting, nothing other than bandwidth got in the way of getting to content – well, bandwidth and the blink tag, maybe. :-) We need to get back to simple (not simplistic), effective, *font-independent* design, and for an old school designer like me, it took a fundamental shift in the way I approach solving design problems. Introducing additional complexity in the way browsers and sites interact is not necessarily a good thing.

  • okparrothead

    I think Franglix is onto something.

    Having a competition for new unrestricted fonts (a la ‘American Idol’?) would be a way to use existing technologies yet introduce new fonts to the Web. I’ll bet that the additional income/prestige from being chosen a winner would induce a second, third or who knows how many further rounds of competition for additional groups of ‘super six’ winners. Small foundries would jump at the chance to be in the competition with larger houses and the race would be on.

    This strategy would eliminate copyright issues and piracy, yet still pay font designers their due (in fame as much as fortune) without undue regulation or administration.

  • Ron

    +1 for “Unrestricted Font” contest: at least then I’d know where to get them. Of course, we still need browser support. “@font-face” seems ideal for unrestricted fonts. For “Rights Reserved” fonts, “Open EOT” would be fine with me, as long as the font designers are OK with it.

  • the_edge

    Have to agree with Nathj07 – this is SiFR. The Font Co’s will not give up their best intellectual property in a manner that allows someone to potentially download and reuse the type face period. Using a DRM method, while plausible, will create a legal, logistical and monioring mess. An iTunes for Fonts on a website or governing body website – do not see it…

    On Microsoft’s proposal, I like the idea, but it will fail for no other reason than they are proposing it – that’s reality. I have no agenda against MS, but MS has made too many enemies in the overall web community for this concept to succeed as a proposal from them…At best it will be a major uphill battle – anyone have the extra time to wait?

    On the upside, what this activity has accomplished is to move the debate off dead…

    Cheers

  • CoderX

    I’m going to counterpoint most of the comments and go with Apple on this one. A font is no different than an image. A jpg or gif is in reality a description of how to create an image (or images), not an image in and of itself. A font is the same thing, a description of how to make a set of images. If said resulting images are copyrighted, then so be it. We don’t typically protect images like jpg and gif with DRM, so why should fonts be any different? We need to quit trying to force compliance with intellectual laws through technological means (which can all be broken by those with the will and skill to do so anyway) and keep things simple.

  • http://www.headbank.co.uk/ headbank

    Let’s be honest here: how many website *users* are going to give a tinker’s cuss if the font isn’t what the designer wanted it to be? I’m gonna say 0.001%, and that for 0.01% of sites out there.

    How much appreciable variation is there among the fonts (that people actually use) of any given family anyway? Call me naiive or a philistine if you must, but I’ve not seen enough to merit this level of brouhaha.

    Haven’t we just spent the last decade learning the creed of graceful degradation? Are we now going to drink the Kool-Aid and allow ourselves to be made to feel our work is unworthy if it can’t render in our favourite font? Madness, I tells ya!

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with aspiring to this; I flirted with the idea myself in the early days. A developer should be able to license a font and pay once for its use on as many websites as s/he can churn out. S/he should not have to pay per-site, and the audience should never be expected to pay (as seems to be implied by some of the above comments, though I don’t get that from the article).

    It’s perfectly feasible for a purchased web-font file to be watermarked, making it traceable to its licensee and thereby flagging any unlicensed commercial usage so that the font-foundry may then litigate against the abuser. This is pretty much how digital-image IP is managed AFAIK, and fonts are no more valuable as IP than a unique photograph if you ask moi.

  • Anonymous

    I was interested in custom web fonts 10 years ago.

    I have little faith anything significant will ever happen in this arena.

  • http://www.georgelangley.ca GeorgeLangley

    <i>”open source fonts are unlikely to stack up in terms of quality or variety anytime soon”</i>

    I don’t doubt that once a few font designers get the ball rolling, open source fonts will become the norm. Look at all the great open source projects we already have for programming with, for free. Anything that avoids big buck solutions and stays platform/browser agnostic will quickly get embraced.
    Designing an open source font will then become a marketing tool, rather than a commodity in and of itself. And if they are truly open source, then I could design a font, then someone else tweak it to kern that much better, and it will continue to be improved.
    Personally, Apple’s solution is much more appealing in this context. Download (or make) an open source TTF, that can then get used anywhere (web, Flash, Photoshop, rtf, etc.) – who wouldn’t want that?!

  • textguy

    The Open Source community has already started the ball rolling.

    Gentium is an award-winning typeface family released
    under the SIL Open Font License with support for Unicode.

    Gentium:
    http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&id=Gentium

    SIL Open Font License
    http://scripts.sil.org/OFL
    http://www.linux.com/articles/60919

    SIL Font Catalogue
    http://www.sil.org/computing/catalog/show_software_catalog.asp?by=cat&name=font

    The Linux distribution Debian is already packaging SIL fonts.

    And there’s already a repository for open fonts at:
    http://openfontlibrary.org/

  • mercuryvapour88

    Just make your own fonts and make them freely available to undermine the value of copyrighted fonts so that everyone will have to make their fonts freely available in the end in order to compete. We just need more opensource fonts. How many artists are out there producing images every day and art for their websites? Well, take it one step further and make your own personalised font for your own personal website and bugger everyone else and their dependency systems!! DIY! Not EOT nor @URL!
    Sure, it will take extra time to make your own font, but eveything that’s unique, stylised and personalised takes extra time. The only way to be original is to do what no-one else will do.

  • arts-multimedia

    Sorry I am back again, but I absolutely do not see why we would have to pay an extra fee for fonts because they are used in websites. Publishing is publishing, be it a book, a poster, a site or a PDF. As long as we do not make it to easy for hackers to steal the fonts, we have done what we could to protect the interest of the font vendor and that is that.

    Also, the idea of creating a whole extra set of fonts specially for the web is beyond me because there are already thousands of fonts around.
    And this approach would still be a problem if clients want to have a consistency in all their publications(as they should).

  • CreativeCustoms

    WhSox21 Says:
    The only way I can see this working properly is by having an online conversion tool where developers who have purchased the licenses can upload the original font files and it will return the EOT file which would be restricted for use on one website.

    This sounds a LOT like what Apple has attempted to do with the selling of entertainment media, but with added confusion. So you have to have the license to upload the licensed font file to return a licensed and encrypted EOT file which is restricted to ONE (1) website? What if my client is picky and wants to switch it out in 4 mos? Mrs. Indie Siceive is not gonna be happy when I tell her that it’s going to cost her more money to change the text on the site.

    As a whole, I know we’re all sick with ‘web-safe’ fonts, but do we really need to have to pay again for something we already rightfully own? It’s a limit, but at least I can read evey one of the fonts that are considered safe.
    Why not do direct licensing via Adobe? Let the designers send their fonts to be part of Adobe’s next font pack, Adobe pays them well for their tedious work, and is distributed with a license that addends itself to your existing legitimate, unhacked Adobe setup? This way, everyone gets a slice of what they want and nobody can point fingers too much.

    Just speculating on possibilities and outcome here. I’d rather see it released by Adobe and leave it out of Microsoft and Apple’s hands. Let them each do what they do best: Microsoft needs to keep making incompatible products to keep IT jobs streaming overseas, and Apple needs to keep making mediocre rigs that can’t run games, and monopolizing the music market. And lets not forget the almighty iPhone that doesn’t have tactile response.

    /rant

  • larry2


    … EOT can effectively “embed” the font in your web site.

    This is effectively the same thing that happens when you use a custom font in a PDF file…

    Just wanted to note that some font licenses don’t even allow their fonts to be embedded in a PDF. I ran into that recently when I created a PDF master for a brochure to be printed – I got a message from Acrobat saying the font couldn’t be embedded so I had to confirm that the printer had the font installed before I submitted the piece for printing.

  • the_edge

    Seems I have lost my point of view, so …

    Anyone up for creating Open Source Web Fonts website with the idea to promote open source font foundries? It could be similiar to OSWD.org

    Any Takers?

    Cheers

  • franglix

    I really do think that the push should be for expansion of the number of web-safe fonts. People can pick their poison and as headbank says designers can do their own thing, if that’s what gives them satisfaction… however with all the major browsers finally starting to agree on web standards, surely it’s time after all these years of stagnation that this part of our collective environment was brought up to date.

    Thanks for your support okparrothead and Ron. The more I think about it, and open competition seems the only solution. Do I have to initiate the comp (have enough on my plate)? Would be interested on your ‘kill or cure’ reflections Monsieur Yank.

  • arts-multimedia

    I got a message from Acrobat saying the font couldn’t be embedded so I had to confirm that the printer had the font installed before I submitted the piece for printing.

    You are right, and I have to say that it is an insane situation, 2 parties having to buy the same font for 1 product.
    So, perhaps I am wrong in my previous comment and we might have to look for an open source foundary with fonts after all.
    However, I do not like the idea of linking, because we run the danger that one font might overwrite an existing fonts on the user’s machine if they have the same name and that is bound to happen.

  • http://www.georgelangley.ca GeorgeLangley

    <em> we run the danger that one font might overwrite an existing fonts</em>

    That happens already! :-{)]
    2 solutions – a centralized name registry, where font designers can register their fonts’ names. Would suggest a designer registers and gets assigned a unique prefix, that then gets applied to their font’s name. So designer 001 and designer 002 could both create an “Animal” font (001Animal and 002Animal).
    Or, the font downloads into a unique directory as part of the browser’s cache. Each page only looks into their matching directory for the appropriate font.

  • okparrothead

    I’m with you Franglix.

    What I’d really like to see is a group of new open-source fonts released as a font-pack for Mozilla and maybe Safari. It might inspire Microsoft to release it as a font-pack as well. Wouldn’t cost them much, (nothing?) and then the whole world would have a new group of installed fonts we don’t have to embed, attach, whatever. They would be as ubiquitous as Times New Roman.

  • http://www.talkholdem.com/ WhSox21

    okparrothead,

    Then we run into the save problem years down the road as other fonts get developed. It’s the exact same issue that we run into now, only a select number of fonts are installed by default on computers.

  • mercuryvapour88

    I also agree with Franglix and okparrothead, an open source font pack has to be the answer installed with every new OS or made freely availble to be installed in your fonts folder.
    To counter WhSox21, what if this font pack, instead of the situation we have now with only about 10 fonts, was about 1,000 fonts? If we’ve had more than 10 years with only 10 fonts, how many could we have with 1,000?
    Fonts should be freely accessible just like the jpg images and anything else that gets published.

  • arts-multimedia

    In the short term it might be a good solution to have an additional set of standard fonts because then we have more options to simulate the appearance of other fonts.

    But ultimately, we need to be able to use any existing font (that looks good on a monitor, I hasten to say), regardless what font designers think of it. As long as we make it difficult to steal fonts, there should be no objection. So, EOT might be the best option in the long run, but I have to be honest, I do not know how it exactly would work and how heavy pages might become due to the implementation of embedding.

  • mercuryvapour88

    Just take a look at the fonts you already have installed in your fonts folder to see how big they are. On average you’re adding 25-150KB, but I have a few as low as 3KB (DataGlyph SP) and as high as 15MB (Batang & Batang Che). With a lot of people now on such high bandwidth speeds, I think an extra 150KB (max.) is tolerable. Whatever the case, the user still has to download the font in order to view the page.
    Getting back to choices between EOT and linking, I think EOT, although perhaps more expensive in terms of licencing (for the customer), would provide more variety, while linking will only work if it solves the problem of licencing. A simple solution (for linking) could be a paid memebership to a server that will provide an authorised gateway to the fonts of your choice with either a limited or unlimited selection depending on the price of your membership. What say you all to this solution?

  • mercuryvapour88

    Nevertheless, EOT has to be the short-term solution for limitless variety of font usage while still giving credit/money to the font Artiste. The customer will have to pay for it and not all customers understand the necessity of a unique look and feel by using an expensive font.
    I still think linking to an OpenSource font will the final solution but certainly not a quick one. If these forums are any motivation to get artists creating for OpenSource, then it will happen sooner rather than later. I’m fired up for it now. All I need is some free font designing software!
    free font editor already installed in windows

  • arts-multimedia

    Hm, you wouldn’t believe how slow some of those so called “broadband connections” are in large parts of the world, so this could be a problem.
    But we could leave the option open to the user to accept EOT or not, just as you can refuse to download images.

  • juhlster1021

    @font-face isn’t a practical solution. My second cousin’s neice’s best friend may not have an ethical alarm bell ringing whild she posts any ol’ font file she feels like, but it obviously won’t work for professional desn.

    EOT doesn’t seem much better until the fonts we love are licensed to allow this distribution method.

    I think our best bet is to convince some top-notch font designers to create/release a set of fonts that are compact in size and unrestricted in usage. I like the comments above suggesting that we try to encourage development of a new set of fonts that are appealing and also have the appropriate permissions attached.

  • http://www.evanbot.com ETbyrne

    Wouldn’t embedding fonts be just like embedding other media formats like audio and video? Anyone can rip music from a CD and embed it into a web page, but that doesn’t mean that it is legal.

    If people are worried about people stealing fonts off web pages then they are blind to the fact that nothing is safe on the internet. Ever.

  • randywehrs

    I think that the main problem is that even if the design community comes up with a way to standardize some better fonts, the problem is how far back the public, and computer manufacturers will lag behind.

    We’re stuck with these fonts – just the way it’s going to be for a long time to come. Unless google steps in and starts hosting a bunch of free fonts for us all to link to.

  • Chaudhary

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  • Stilter

    I know this is a late entry into the fray, but here goes…
    My brother is the chief of art/design/layout at an outdoor advertising agency. They use custom fonts on their products all the time. Basically, they buy a font from a font producer (Adobe, etc.) for a set price, then use it for any sign or advertisement, and any client present or future. No additional fees required.
    If the font producers are cool with that, then why not selling to a web designer to use on any page they create?
    It seems a double standard.
    If the fonts where available on a server through an encrypted link, @font-face could work.

    It could work like this:
    A web designer pays a membership to the font server.
    They would register the domain name that will use the font.
    The server would generate an encrypted code that allows that domain to access the font file.
    The encrypted code would be included in the CSS file with the link to the server for the font file.
    When a client/browser views the web page, the font file would be downloaded to the client cache for use while viewing the web page/site.
    The font server would pay the producer outright for the font or pay royalties, etc.

    Designers would have to make decisions about what fonts to use based on the file size, just like images file sizes.

    Just an idea…