Fonts on the Web
I’ll get that second half of the font protection discussion up soon. But it’s been forever since I posted – the Macromedia merger has been a huge time sink, and my other work just hasn’t gone away, so blog posting was the thing I could most afford to put off.
Anyway, an interesting discussion was generated by this rather goofy manifesto, both on the original site, and here on Typophile. Basically, somebody wants to be able to use more fonts in HTML, and has some confusion about how best to accomplish that – he thinks the type foundries are to blame for the current lack of options, and suggests that fonts need to be liberated from their servitude to their type foundry masters.
My response, which is somewhere in both those lengthy threads, I reproduce again here:
Norbert has it exactly right. The problem is nothing to do with the font companies or font designers. And they certainly aren’t greedy – if they were, they’d be in another line of business.
The overwhelming majority of type vendors and designers already set their fonts for “preview and print” embedding, or some more liberal setting. They’ve already done their part.
The problem is that there is no universally accepted solution for font embedding on the web. I think Adrian sort of gets that, but he seems to think that it’s up to the font folks to solve. But really this is a problem for the web folks to solve – perhaps with input from the font people.
Any of the previous solutions that relied on distributing fonts for end users to install up front has been fundamentally flawed. insofar as it keeps designers using a handful of fonts that are universal, and relies on something largely outside of their control – that the user already has the font installed. Even if the fonts are freely available, the web is too much of an instant-gratification medium for web designers to be able to rely on people installing specific fonts just to view a site.
The W3C is considering a new mechanism that would allow a reference to a font in a specified format on the web site, perhaps in a Zip file. That’s an improvement, because it gets the font automatically loaded – but you’d still be limited to free fonts, which isn’t very exciting. And convincing the rights-holders that they should give their work away isn’t going to work here any more than it did in the music industry.
Still, it’s a big problem. You need to convince the folks who own the web browsers and the web authoring applications that there’s a big market for a solution. The font foundries already know this and most of them are as eager for a good solution as you are.