Google Fonts is Born – Can I get a Hallelujah!?

When Typekit was announced about a year ago, there was one question we were throwing around the office. Why doesn’t someone BIG just buy a bunch of fonts and make them available to everyone — just for the general good of the web?

Well, someone big did.

Today Google announced the Google Font API and Google Font Directory at the IO Developer Conference. Using just a single line of code you’ll now be able to legally link and use a range of approved fonts without them needing to be present on the user’s system.

The font embed code is simple and elegant.

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Tangerine">

Font Catalog The Google Font Directory launch offers 19 licensed fonts for your linking pleasure including a tasty range of serif, san-serif, script and fixed-width choices. I expect that catalog will grow over time.

So, is this the death knell for fledgling font linking services like Typekit and Kernest?

Not necessarily. I think this could actually end up being a good thing for the existing services. Google has a knack of being able to bring new technologies into the spotlight, so there’s no doubt we’re going to see a much ‘font-ier’ web over the next 12 months.

However, it’s going to be more important than ever to distinguish yourself from the crowd with quality and good taste, so paying for high-quality, original type is going to be one of the ways to do this.

Why Google?

Microsoft has some history with font licensing via their Office products, and I remember wondering if they might well be the ones to take a lead here. Perhaps it could have been a way to promote their cloud services? It certainly looks like a missed opportunity to at least win some sorely needed PR brownie points.

On the other hand, one of Google’s key mantras has been ‘if people like and use the web more, that’s eventually good for Google‘. Maps, Chrome and Android are all good examples of this ethic put into practice, so it’s not surprising they’ve been the company to reach into their pocket.

Whatever their motivation, this is a really exciting development.

Yay for the Google.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • @sugaredmagnolia

    I’ll give you a Hallelujah! That is incredible news! I tried using Typekit for my WordPress theme and could never get it to work. Thanks for the heads up on this latest development. Long live Google!

  • jamesTbaker

    PLEEEEASE copy edit!

  • Arlen

    Except none of the Google fonts will work in any iPhoneOS device with safariMobile, because they don’t offer them in the correct format.

  • Anonymous

    OH NO !!!! – This is bad news – We have spent ages ensuring pages are readable and the limted fonts we have now do that to a greater degree than some fancy handscript like ‘Tangerine’ – surely we got past the gratuitous nature of fonts in Flash and graphical headers/titles, etc… at least good old verdana and times are readable and about the same size – e.g. Tangerine at 1em is s different in size (& less readable in my opinion) than Verdana at the same size. No this will bring more headaches for web designers however good at typography they are ! K.I.S.S. is my moto !!

    • http://www.jonathanpenny.co.uk jonpenny

      If these font’s are used wisely such as for headers rather than having to use image replacement I don’t see this as being anything other than a good thing.

      I do share your concern about these font’s being used for body text though would could make sites unreadable.

      • Daniel Watts

        Also, people who really need to be critically sure of readability can still use the old font sets.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    Fantabadastic

  • Ann. O.

    Off topic: you were clearly in a hurry when you wrote this.

    “to the everyone”
    “original type is going to one of the ways to do this.”
    “a missed opportunity to least win a public relations coup?”

    On topic: Hallelujah

  • W2ttsy

    Its all well and good for Google to offer this, but its still going to be caveat emptor. Like all 3rd party APIs, it could be removed at anytime, so a backup solution needs to be in place.

    I think its a good step though and should be interesting to see if Google can combine this with either a payment model or integration with their other services.

    • Anonymous

      They’re open source fonts, so it doesn’t matter — they’re not going away.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Yes, got me there, Anne. Very pushed for time today but wanted to get this out there. Fixed.

  • Jake Noble

    This is fantastic! Go Google!

  • ximi

    Hallelujah!

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    Like all 3rd party APIs, it could be removed at anytime, so a backup solution needs to be in place.

    That’s what the font-stack is for. ;)

    No this will bring more headaches for web designers however good at typography they are !

    I don’t follow your reasoning. If you’re good at typography, choosing good fonts to use wouldn’t give you a headache, it’d be a pleasure, but if for some reason, it does give you a headache, you’re not under any expectation to use non-standard fonts; if you’re good at typography, you should already be able to do great things with the common fonts available to everyone.

    • James

      The problem is they will be abused. Newbies will come along and have 30 different fonts on a page “just because they can”.

      The same way you see lots of sites using website builders like Mr Site having an analogue javascript clock and hit counter just because they are available.

      For people who understand the web and even more so typography this is great.

  • nBrandt

    This is great, as with everything, only use it if you have a reason to do so. Thanks Google ;)

  • Scott Petrovic

    This is a great step in designing for the web. Sure there will be people “abusing” the power, but people abuse animated gifs, flash, and every other technology. People that abuse things generally aren’t very educated in relation to the subject. Their sites suffer as a consequence and look unprofessional. All this will do is further separate the gap between what makes a good designer from a not-so-good designer.
    I will give a Hallelujah for Google’s effort!

  • sclough

    Obviously it’s helpful to have these fonts, although it does seem a big worrisome at times how pervasive Google is becoming…

    I’m also wondering if the author actually understands what the word “Hallelujah” means. It is a very sacred word to both Jews and Christians and not appropriate for something as trivial as fonts…

    • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

      In my faith, “font” is a sacred word, and not appropriate for something as trivial as judaism or christianity.

      My point of course is, you don’t get to say that others shouldn’t use a particular word in a particular way, simply because you deem it important. Your concept of “sacred” is subjective and entirely arbitrary.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      This is web development… Nothing is sacred… Besides, Hallelujah has a nice ring to it.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    @james: That’s what newbies do. That’s what 99% of us here all did. Same with advanced users with bad taste.

    They’ll also crop images badly, pick gaudy color schemes, write bad content and wear daggy t-shirts. I’m ok with that.

    But this isn’t quite like giving MS Word to the lady who does the church newsletter. Raw beginners are going to struggle to understand what this is — “..wha? So, I go to google and do what?… where do a write this link code thingey?… in the address bar?..

    Most are going to use the prebuilt templates at blogger or WordPress or Tumblr or Squarespace or whereever.

    I’m actually not even sure where beginners go to make their embarrassing mistakes these days. Geocities and Angelfire are gone. Myspace maybe, but who uses that now?

    • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

      blogger, wordpress …. hosted blogs basically, that’s where they go :)

  • GwebD

    SHHHHH!!! Lets keep this a secret between us 21 developers! Can you say… “Portfolio boost!”???

  • Thomas Phinney

    “Why doesn’t someone BIG just buy a bunch of fonts”

    Urm, that is NOT what happened here. These are open source fonts. Google did not buy them.

    Commissioning or acquiring a bunch of fonts for this purpose would have been interesting, though!

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    This is great news! I was just complaining about the lack of real support for embeddable web fonts today.

  • McBenny

    I think the principle is good. It’s offering more possibilities to website creators and websites visitors.

    The question I’m in trouble with is will I use it ? Will I rely on an external source to display my site ? Will I use Google services again ?

    If My system is Chrome, my navigator is CHrome too, My search engine is of course Google (has he a name now ? or is it just the name of the company to entitle the search engine ?) the stats are provided by… Google Analytics, my email is in gMail, my company is turning to online documents suite from Google, Meetings are taking place through Wave, the advertissment system of our web site is Google Ads… Sales agents got brand new Nexus…

    I recognize that all those services and software are quite effective, allmost all free, but what about the Microsoft syndrom (who is, from my point of view a bit narrower than Google’s today position).

    Well, fonts are not that important that I matter to use them from Google.

    Sorry for the troll.

  • http://www.myspace.com/floydddp jhendry76

    Great news…if everyone was using a Mac!
    Basic web fonts look crap on a PC anyway, and these new ones look awful on all browsers.

    Great idea and about time something like this was available.
    Shame some of the tech can’t show off Google’s efforts.

  • Jack Matier

    I don’t really see what’s all the Hallelujah is about?

    The service seems to be copied from fontsquirrel.com, a site I’ve been using for ages. The concept is the same too with the only difference being that google hosts theirs stylesheets.

    Heck, they even did poorly on the url. Why not fonts.google.com/[font_name]? At least that’s my url structure because I’ve taken a few fonts from fontsquirrel.com myself and hosted them for use on my own sites.

  • http://www.sky-web.net/ Dr John

    It’s a nice start.

    Now all we need are some good fonts to be made available. I’m not massively impressed with the quality of the fonts on display – some are nice, but only some.

    Buying in a few outstanding fonts would be a great idea – it’s not as if Google can’t afford them ;)

  • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

    A problem I’ve come across is that when you use unusual fonts – ie. when you’re in a situation where different browsers are implementing differents fonts from the stack – each of those fonts has a slightly different apparent size, different line-height and therefore a different original position. So you find that CSS which looks good with one font, is slightly out of position, or too big or too small, with a different font.

    Because of that I’ve really tended to stick to fonts that are present on most deafult Windows and Mac installs, so that the likelihood is everyone will be seeing the same font.

    So what solutions are there to deal with this problem – how do you apply different CSS depending on which font is applied? As far as I know there’s no way to detect it even in JavaScript, because the computed styled just returns the whole list.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      Absolutely. I have the same concerns and this is why I don’t like verdana; along with it’s elongated look it’s like 105% larger than the next best sans-serif. I also really have issues with Calibri which is a great looking font but not only is it scaled differently to other fonts but it’s scaled differently to itself depending on whether you’re on the Mac or PC.

      I’ve looked at the fonts that Google is offering and there are a few nice ones in the bunch. I haven’t looked at them to see how they scale with regard to other fonts I would include in the stack though.

  • Jeff Sebring

    I love this web based fonts thing. In fact, I love it soo much, I wrote WordPress Plugin for Google Fonts. It makes it really easy to change fonts from the admin panel. The first version is very basic, but I plan on expanding it greatly as time allows.

    You can get it free here – http://easywebcoder.com/wordpress-plugins/google-web-fonts/

    This is my first plugin. I welcome any feedback or reviews on it.

    Cheers,

    Jeff Sebring

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Nice work, Jeff!