Web Fonts & Typography: The Good & The Bad

A few weeks ago, there was some minor buzz about fonts and typography on the web. The story centered on the new updates on Firefox to support the @font-face rule in CSS. This rule can enable fonts from a remote location to be downloaded and rendered by the webpage calling it. (The status quo is that the fonts must reside in the user’s local machine in order to be used.)

To be honest, I’m over the fence over this development.

On one hand, I’m really looking forward to the use of new fonts as a native capability of web designers. The potential is just immense– designers will no longer be captive to the likes of Verdana, Georgia, Arial, and Tahoma, work-arounds such as image replacement techniques will be a thing of the past, and this may even open up new opportunities for font foundries. Accessibility-wise, tons of images as text will give way to properly styled text.

On the other, there are two main issues that keeps me from doing cartwheels all over the place: a) The potential misuse of the fonts, opening a Pandora’s box of new usability problems and even security issues; and b) the DRM of the web fonts. (How will people pay for the fonts & bandwidth?)

These two issues have the potential to be deal breakers but there are possible solutions to them.

For the usability issues, this puts the onus on browser makers to put better font override features to turn-off #font-face rendering. Designers must also anticipate the use of standard fonts as a replacement to the non-standard fonts.

The DRM issue is a little trickier. I seriously doubt that foundries will just give up their fonts– unless there’s a sponsor involved. Perhaps a company like Adobe or Google can sponsor fonts for designers. Another possible model is licensing where the company’s font servers can allow/disallow access to the typefaces based on a registry of licensed websites.

I’m pretty sure that the direction of web fonts & typography will go towards the @font-face direction, and I do hope that the stumbling blocks will be overcome.

  • I think that this update in FireFox will be a major advancement for web designers. I agree that it can be dangerous and open security issues, but I think that those will be easily uncovered and overcome.

  • I too am excited about the advancement in fonts and typography for webmasters. I was one doing “cartwheels” over the news. Thanks for pointing out the down sides as these hadn't crossed my mind. I'm sure you are correct that the direction will go in the @font-face direction and my hope is the bumps along the way will be small. Thanks for the well written post.

  • Hmm, I have not thought about the security issues – good that you pointed them out. As with everything else, I do think the first 6-12 months will be confusing and buggy, but people and software will adjust and things will start to run more smoothly in the future.

    I can't wait to use all kinds of cool new fonts!

  • It really sounds like a good news, but considering all the pro's and con's, I'm rather “carefully optimistic” than totally excited. I will definitely keep monitoring this topic and test it myself as soon as possible.

  • I think the problem with fonts is they all look very sterile, some innovation needs to be applied.

  • there is certainly a security threat but if you know there is a threat and what the threat is, we can do something about it to render it safe. i think it is great improvement and i reckon it will be popular

  • I guess the dinosaur helvetica is sliding off into obscurity eh? That old standby was once so common that when new fonts started getting used in mainstream media it eventually sparked a one hour show on Discovery or Nova. Can't remember off hand which channel it was. I couldn't believe myself. I was actually interested in a show about fonts

  • Typography is still very limited when compared to that of print; the CSS support in modern browsers now allows web designers to actually think about typography. We will came to know how itís different from print typography and latter will make a choice of typographical design. To design a wed is to make attractive to the user so we need to upgrade it by using new fonts as a native capability of wed designers. For better fonts we can consult a company like adobe or Google which can sponsor fonts for designer.

  • Typography is still very limited when compared to that of print; the CSS support in modern browsers now allows web designers to actually think about typography. We will came to know how itís different from print typography and latter will make a choice of typographical design. To design a wed is to make attractive to the user so we need to upgrade it by using new fonts as a native capability of wed designers. For better fonts we can consult a company like adobe or Google which can sponsor fonts for designer.

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