May 27, 2009
When we started Small Batch Inc. last year, our goal was to explore what’s now possible on the web. That exploration has taken many shapes: bringing together a community at The Start Conference, working with our friends at Twitter for a few months, and digging deep into data with Wikirank. Now we’re focusing on an entirely new idea, and we’d like to share that with you. It’s called Typekit.
We’ve been following developments in web browsers very closely, looking for new and smarter ways to build stuff. Last fall, we started seeing renewed interest in linking to fonts via Cascading Stylesheets. While the W3C working draft has been around for years, a new wave of browser support will finally offer designers more control over fonts on the web. A particularly cogent article from John Allsopp, followed by frequent conversations with him, helped us understand that there was a significant opportunity here.
Web fonts today
So here’s the situation: Every major browser is about to support the ability to link to a font. That means you can write a bit of CSS, include a URL to a font file, and have your page display with the typography you expect. For designers and developers, this is a significant step forward. No longer will you need to trap your content in images or Flash just to express yourself visually. Pages will be more usable, accessible, and indexable. This is a massive upgrade for the web.
But there’s a problem. While it’s technically quite easy to link to fonts, it’s legally more nuanced. Almost all fonts are protected by copyright — even those available for free — and very few of them allow for linking via CSS or redistribution on the web. This is understandable; font files represent countless hours of finely detailed labor. Appropriately, type designers are concerned that they’ll lose control of all that hard work.
The Typekit solution
That’s where Typekit comes in. We’ve been working with foundries to develop a consistent web-only font linking license. We’ve built a technology platform that lets us to host both free and commercial fonts in a way that is incredibly fast, smoothes out differences in how browsers handle type, and offers the level of protection that type designers need without resorting to annoying and ineffective DRM.
We’ll be launching this summer with a great collection of beautiful and hardworking typefaces. We’ll offer a free version of the service to get you started, and a low-cost way to grow from there. A truly scalable professional version will follow soon after.
We have a lot more to share as well. If you’d like to stay connected to what’s happening with Typekit, you can subscribe to this blog’s feed, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for a preview and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready.