Until recently, web designers didn’t have much control over the fonts we could use. We were pretty much limited to the small number of fonts that came with popular operating systems. Microsoft and others developed some web font systems, but they weren’t compatible with all browsers. There’ve also been some useful workarounds like sIFR, although, being Flash-based, these had limitations and were tricky to use.
Now, however, there are some very promising options for embedding fonts into web sites, using simple additions to a web site’s CSS (style sheet). I’ve been trying a few of these web font services, and so far, they all work well.
TypeKit (please see the disclosure at the bottom of this post) currently offers over 500 fonts, and its font library will shortly be expanded, thanks to an agreement between TypeKit and Adobe to make Adobe’s font collection available on the platform. TypeKit has several pricing plans, and it offers a free trial. TypeKit is used by WebWorkerDaily and the other GigaOM Network sites.
Google Font API
Google is also getting into the act, having recently released the Google Font API. It’s a Google Labs project, and as of now, only offers about 20 fonts, so it may not be suitable for production environments. But as with many Google products, it’s being offered at no cost.
Ascender and The Font Bureau have just announced Webtype, so I haven’t had time to try it yet. It appears to offer about 100 fonts. Webtype’s pricing is based on the number of fonts and amount of bandwidth used. A free trial is available.
In addition to the service listed above, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is developing an open format called Web Open File Format (WOFF) that, if adopted, will bring more options. So we can hope that it’s only a matter of time before the ubiquity of fonts like Times New Roman and Arial comes to an end.
Disclosure: TypeKit is is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.
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