Hope for font embedding on the web?..

Since the dawn of the web (approximately) people have wanted to use specific fonts in their web page designs. Initially they rendered their text as graphics files (bad for download sizes, and often bad for accessibility), then there were a competing font embedding systems (which never really took off due to browser incompatibilities and limited tools), and then the Flash text-replacement tools (which do the job, but are pretty clunky) and SVG fonts (with limited browser support).

None of these really have the appeal of genuinely embedding your fonts in a website – which should allow better designs and font usage, be more efficient for the user, and easier for the developer than any of the above options.

The Microsoft IEBlog has recently posted about a new effort to get font embedding working. There’s an education effort, and – more importantly at this point – it appears that they are opening up their EOT embedding solution in a W3C submission. This is the same system as from 10 years ago, but opening it up will hopefully allow other browser makers take it up, and other developers make (decent) tools to create EOT.

HÃ¥kon Wium Lie advocates a different approach to the problem in August 2007, advocating plain TrueType web fonts, and this has been included to Safari 3.1. It doesn’t have the file size advantages of EOT, but looks like a workable approach for free fonts. Unfortunately it isn’t so good for commercial font creators, as they their licensing restrictions on font distribution could be trampled over with this system.

Of course, there is a downside should this actually work out – it’ll be desktop publishing with dozens of fonts per page, all over again. Still, if EOT becomes a freely implementable standard, with decent tools (preferably free software), this will be a win for the web…

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