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Font Foundries Opening Up To the Web 209

Posted by timothy
from the but-what-about-printing dept.
Tiger4 writes "A huge number of fonts are migrating from the print-only world to the Web. As the browser manufacturers get on board, the WWW will be a much more interesting place (see the article illustration). 'Beginning Tuesday, Monotype Imaging, a Massachusetts company that owns one of the largest collections of typefaces in the world, is making 2,000 of its fonts available to Web designers. The move follows that of San Francisco-based FontShop, which put several hundred of its fonts online in February. In just a few weeks, Font Bureau, a Boston designer of fonts, will make some of its typefaces available online as well.' With any luck, the transition period to font-richness will be briefer and less painful than the waving-flag, jumping-smiley, flashing-text era HTML explosion."
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Font Foundries Opening Up To the Web

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  • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:40PM (#32102528)

    ...we really just need one less. [bancomicsans.com]

    • by RedEars (1622495)
      Can I nominate a second in Papyrus???
      • by c++0xFF (1758032)

        Before I knew that these two fonts were overdone, I used them both for my wedding announcements.

        I now know better and hang my head in shame. I can only hope nobody noticed.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Can I nominate a second in Papyrus???

        Technically, you can, but I'd be very annoyed with you for using the awful Papyrus to nominate the font you want banned.

    • There is nothing wrong with comics sans. People use it in inappropriate situations, but that is not a technical issue with the font itself.

      See also, Bittorrent.

    • College Humor's Font conference video [youtube.com] would seem apropos.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I don't care what people say, Like it. I have yet to hear a logical argument against it for any technical reason. Just some people who decided it wasn't any good.

      In fact, the whole argument on that site build down to:
      "It's not how it would of been done before computers, therefore it's bad.

      They use as hom attacks, and somehow think they get to dictate what is art.

  • Oh great (Score:5, Funny)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:42PM (#32102544) Homepage Journal

    More websites that look like ransom notes.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:43PM (#32102558) Homepage

    We got into the current mess of text in images because Microsoft wouldn't support Mozilla's font files. Is IE going with the standard this time around, or do we have another browser incompatibility issue?

    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:52PM (#32102712) Homepage
      Yes, Microsoft is implementing the WOFF standard [msdn.com], along with all the other browsers.
      • Just when we all though the font copyright had been consigned to the realm of history....

        A whole new industry with it patents and pitfalls is going to be brought screaming into the 21st century. Soon there will be legions of lawyers and PR drones promoting the idea that some way of drawing the letter 'A' is worthy of copyright and patent protection. For a while there, it looked like that nonsense was behind us, but I suppose that was just wishful thinking.

        • On the plus side, the ability of font copyrights to threaten the freedom of people who don't care is pretty limited. As long as you are blessed with somewhat undiscerning tastes, Free fonts are already available for pretty much any character set you would have reason to use. Substituting one font for another might break some design major's little dream; but it isn't hard.

          Those people for who fonts don't matter much can easily just stick to the free stuff, and those people who care enough to pay can pay.
        • by Haeleth (414428)

          Soon there will be legions of lawyers and PR drones promoting the idea that some way of drawing the letter 'A' is worthy of copyright and patent protection.

          That fact is already recognised in many countries. It's time the USA fixed its inadequate IP protection and caught up with the rest of the world.

          And it's not often you hear someone say that. ;)

          Seriously, why do you think fonts should not be copyrightable? Is it just the generic Slashdot "I should be entitled to copy anything I like" mentality, or can y

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Seriously, why do you think fonts should not be copyrightable? Is it just the generic Slashdot "I should be entitled to copy anything I like" mentality, or can you actually come up with a rational reason why you should be allowed to take a creative product -- one that may represent years of hard work -- and use it without compensating the creator?

            I'm sorry, but I refuse to accept that a new way (or method) of drawing a stylised letter "A" is a sufficiently "creative" activity worthy of the extreme levels of

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by plan10 (1539185)

          What's a amazing is that so many of the fonts are basically just re-creations of typefaces that are certainly out of copyright.

          The original "Calson" font mentioned in the article is at least 200 hundred years old, yet there are a number of Calson offering, like from Adobe, costing some $45 bucks.

    • I must have completely missed it, but... what exactly would "Mozilla's font files" entail?
      Google is mostly returning the WOFF bits and pieces now, so I'm not entirely sure what to search for, there.

      • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @03:10PM (#32103710) Homepage

        I must have completely missed it, but... what exactly would "Mozilla's font files" entail?

        Netscape 4.x through 5.x supported "Dynamic Fonts" [archive.org], downloadable font files. Worked fine, but Microsoft didn't like it and didn't support it in IE. When IE was free and Netscape cost money, IE won out. Netscape then gave up on font support, which was a technology they licensed from Bitstream, not an open standard.

        • I don't recall the Netscape implementation being submitted to a standards body, and just the same IE has supported EOT fonts for about as long.
    • We got into the current mess of text in images because Microsoft wouldn't support Mozilla's font files. Is IE going with the standard this time around, or do we have another browser incompatibility issue?

      Actually, we got into the mess of text in images because "web designers" (read: graphic artists) weren't satisfied with the limited number of font faces that could be counted on to be displayed across different platforms. They needed to express their "artistic vision", but Times New Roman, Arial, and generic "sans-serif" font declarations couldn't scratch that itch. They used Photoshop to embed their favorite font faces into graphic elements on the page (buttons, logos, headers, etc). in order to satisfy

    • Beyond MS's support of WOFF in IE9, MS had EOT support from IE5 iirc, about a decade ago now. Netscape had a different implementation iirc, and Mozilla/Firefox supported direct embedding, with WOFF being the preferred format moving forward.
  • Important Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:53PM (#32102738) Homepage Journal

    The article is vague on what, if anything, is being done to address the important issues that have been impeding a wider selection of fonts being used on web pages, namely:

    1. Lack of browser support for downloading fonts (CSS @font-face and friends; see @font-face: The Potential of Web Typography [craigmod.com], which will also show you if your browser supports the technology they use)

    2. Restrictive licenses that do not allow making fonts available

    Both of these means that, when making a web page, you are limited to what fonts the viewer has available.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Re: #2

      if a designer wants you to see Caslon, she can purchase it from the font company that owns it or through services such as Typekit, which has a library of fonts available by subscription. That font will be delivered to the designer's website and to anyone viewing it, even if the font is not installed on the computer.

      The designer is satisfied because you are seeing what she intended you to see, and the typeface designers are satisfied because they were paid.

      Frank Martinez, a New York lawyer who speciali

    • Judging from The Fonts.com Web Fonts [fonts.com] page, they're using some sort of javascript to try to protect their fonts. If I toggle javascript on and off for fonts.com, the look of that page changes as a bunch of fonts turn on/off. Their "three easy steps" on the right also includes "Add a short script to your site".
    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      1. Lack of browser support for downloading fonts (CSS @font-face and friends; see @font-face: The Potential of Web Typography, which will also show you if your browser supports the technology they use)

      Yup, my browser supports it. Which is why I can barely read anything on that site. I'll stick with my system Sans/Sans-serif fonts, thanks. I don't need this illegible crap that looks like it was written with a pen that was running out of ink by someone who was trying to write as fast as humanly possible. Even the non-cursive fonts on that page look like crap and are difficult to read.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kozz (7764)

      As a developer, it's disheartening every time I see some kind of feature that looks exciting, only to discover that less than 50% of the site's visitors would be able to use it. Sadly, when IE doesn't support it, I have to shelve the idea and say, "Well, guess I'll check back in a few years."

    • WOFF (Score:3, Informative)

      by pavon (30274)

      WOFF [wikipedia.org] is the answer to both questions. It is an open font format that allows browsers to download the font on demand, and all the browsers have committed to supporting it in their next release. It has no DRM, but since it isn't the same format as operating systems use, and the browser will be downloading it to a temporary directory behind the scenes, most users won't know that it is possible to copy the fonts - most don't even know how to install a TTF when you give it to them. The foundries have decided tha

    • by Haeleth (414428)

      1. Lack of browser support for downloading fonts (CSS @font-face and friends)

      Not an issue. Microsoft is on board now.

      2. Restrictive licenses that do not allow making fonts available

      Reading between the lines, something tells me that "Monotype Imaging, a Massachusetts company that owns one of the largest collections of typefaces in the world" might just possibly be in a position to do something about the licensing on that large collection of typefaces they own.

  • People will still use Comic Sans.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @02:00PM (#32102796)

    "In other words, a seventh-grader writing a book report on Microsoft Word had more font choices than the person designing Esquire Magazine's website or the IKEA online catalog."

    Which is probably why the average seventh-grader's book report looks so terrible and the websites in question look (most probably, haven't seen them) quite sensibly austere. Sometimes choice hurts if the user doesn't know the first thing about design.

    • by qoncept (599709)
      If someone is using Comic Sans, the font is probably the least of their design worries.
  • Performance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by time961 (618278) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @02:01PM (#32102814)
    This sounds like just what I need: more 100KB unanticipated downloads while I'm stuck at the end of an unreliable slow cellular modem connection. What ever happened to using the web to deliver information instead of "art"? At least browsers can ignore the new font specifications and still display something useful, unlike what happens with high-fashion websites implemented entirely in Flash. As we know, "Flash home page" == "Hold on to your wallet". Will it be the same for fancy fonts, too?
    • Re:Performance? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mikael_j (106439) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @02:20PM (#32103060)

      Well, one thing this will hopefully cut down on is all the extra images and associated markup that's being used today when attempting to create something that doesn't just look like a flat, ugly and ancient chunk of text (hint: the web has evolved past being the equivalent of a bunch of networked text files). It also means that designers can more easily make sites that don't break for some users because they don't have the right fonts (this is a major issue, the default serif and sans-serif fonts are rarely the same between operating systems and a lot of times even versions of the same operating system).

      Dismissing websites that have actually been designed as opposed to just latex2html-ified as "art" really just makes you come off as a grumpy person with no sense for estetics and good presentation of the information.

      I'm not saying this won't be abused, everything that can be abused will be abused, most likely by some teenager who just took his/her school's "intro to web design" course that teaches only the basics of "how" and not the "why" (as in, "how" to use web fonts, not "why" you should use them). Also, with a little luck this will be a feature that you can disable for those sites that insist on misbehaving.

      • Dismissing websites that have actually been designed as opposed to just latex2html-ified as "art" really just makes you come off as a grumpy person with no sense for estetics and good presentation of the information.
        [cough] myspace[/cough]. Sorry, going to have to agree w/ the gpp, less sizzle more steak please.

      • by pizzach (1011925)

        I do thing you are being a bit optimistic. I remember when ign.com used a background image to set the color behind the text to white. The only problem is even on cable it would take a number of seconds before you can read the text. On dialup, it would be closer to 20 to 30 seconds before you could read the text.

        Honestly, if big websites like that can't figure out basic good web design, I don't trust general designers. These are the people who will likely still feed images to users if they can figure out

      • by bit01 (644603)

        Dismissing websites that have actually been designed

        You are are using a different meaning for the word "design" than many. Websites are about communication and having yet another different, unfamiliar font impedes that communication.

        Pre-web somebody did a study to work out what was the clearest font. They discovered it was whatever font the local newspaper used.

        Having a variety of fonts may be entertaining but it is not useful.

        ---

        DRM is the #1 cause of software failure today.

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      It reminds me a lot of Flash, too... it's bypassing the central HTML paradigm in an attempt to allow the designer to force rendering style on the user. I get the feeling that these are people that would just as soon design web pages in PDF format, if they could get away with it.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        it's bypassing the central HTML paradigm in an attempt to allow the designer to force rendering style on the user.

        That idea mostly failed, and died. Most content producers do want control over how the content looks, and do a better job of it than client-side auto-layout ever did. The idea of rendering the same content anywhere from a billboard to a wristwatch isn't that useful anyways, since it turns out you general don't consume the same kinds of information due to constraints of different media. E.g

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Would you rather have a ~65Kb font file (That's the realistic size... I've been playing a lot with this) or 600-700K of text saved as images that isn't searchable and has no alt text.

      Yeah.... I thought so.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @02:07PM (#32102876) Homepage Journal

    Every website in the world uses Verdana.

    Or, at least they do on my computer. Who cares what a web designer thinks looks good, I just want the text to be legible.

    • by JanneM (7445)

      They switch to DejaVu Sans at no less than 10 points here. Very easy to read, very soothing. I was rather put off when I got my Android phone, went to the New York Times website and discovered that they actually use some serifed typeface all over the site. Should find an Android browser that lets me choose my own fonts.

  • just embed them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kcwebmonkey (1351779)
    I gave up a long time ago waiting on browsers to support this font and that font... now i just embed them with flash using sIFR -> http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/sifr [mikeindustries.com]
    • So you're the one who's been clogging my tubes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spikeb (966663)
      thanks for making the web a little more of a shitty place.
    • I gave up a long time ago waiting on browsers to support this font and that font... now i just embed them with flash using sIFR

      From sIFR's manual [novemberborn.net]:

      To export your new typeface, open the sifr.fla file (which is included with the download) in Flash Professional

      From adobe.com [adobe.com]:

      Flash Professional: $699

      So I see sIFR as appropriate for sufficiently large commercial web sites (which can claim a copy of Flash as a business expense) but not for personal or otherwise non-commercial web sites.

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      I used to use sIFR... but incompatibilities w/ IE and lots of edge-case use problems led me to switch. I was probably the most prominent bug-finder.

      I switched to Facelift and even gave Cufon a whirl, but all of them had limitations that caused more trouble than they were worth when needing to build "pixel-perfect" site. Facelift adds too many HTTP requests (bad for HTTPS which can prevent caching). CuFon prevents text selection because it uses SVG, and can break complex link styling. All 3 are unsuitable fo

  • Maybe my visual cortex is different from everyone else on the web. But I just don't get the font thing. Maybe it is like color blindness - font blindness?

    Apart from recognizable trademark-style fonts that people use for a title page or a logo (Coca-cola, Snickers, Pacman) - do most people even care what font they are looking at? The number of fonts I have to select from is already darned annoying. I'm on a fresh Windows 7, and the list goes off the bottom of the screen. I don't think I can even tell th

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      The example in the article is illuminating.

      The only real difference is that they use a script font for the title instead of Verdana. Okay, a script font might have it's uses.

      They use a (italic) serif font for the headings instead of sans serif. All right, I think that's a bad choice, but there are serif fonts available in the standard web selection. Other than that, at the resolution provided I couldn't seen any real differences.

    • Apart from recognizable trademark-style fonts that people use for a title page or a logo (Coca-cola, Snickers, Pacman) - do most people even care what font they are looking at?

      Yes, because web sites want their headlines to appear in the appropriate trade dress fonts. For example, a site about Precious Moments figurines would want to use the font Wasted Collection [windowfonts.com] for headlines, and a site about Animal Crossing video games would want to use Fink Heavy [houseind.com].

    • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @03:27PM (#32103920)

      I think I need 3 fonts to get along just fine

      Pretty much, and those are exactly the same three fonts everyone uses. Font weenies are just a bunch of wankers who make so much noise about how important exactly the right font is that they get other people to pay attention to them.

      They have done zero empirical testing on any aspect of font design, not even whether anyone can actually tell the difference between two "different" fonts without a detailed side-by-side comparison.

      Basically, anyone who is worried about fonts beyond the three you mention is paying way to much attention to presentation and by implication far too little attention to content.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Font snobs are the fashionistas of the internet.

        A bunch of whiny people complaining about something no one else in the world would call 'art'.

    • by Draek (916851) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:48PM (#32104934)

      Apart from recognizable trademark-style fonts that people use for a title page or a logo (Coca-cola, Snickers, Pacman) - do most people even care what font they are looking at?

      They don't, but they should: a good, quality fontface makes a world of difference in legibility vs a poorly-chosen one, and while the difference may be small for short works such as your typical Slashdot post, it becomes much more noticeable as the work becomes longer to the point that book editors pay thousands of dollars to get the perfect font for their books, because readers may *believe* it has no effect, but there's enough scientific studies proving that it does and quite measurably so.

      With that said, however, the defaults on OSX, Linux/BSD and Windows are fairly good so as long as you stick to the old rule of "sans serif for screens, serif for print" you should get 90% of the way with 1% of the effort. Sadly designers are a snobbish and wasteful sort, so here we go with all this crap polluting the CSS standard only to allow morons to make entire websites in Comic Sans MS. Ahh well, at least we can still disable it.

  • T hi s wi l l n oT eN d wEL l Welcome back to mid 90's-era "font-itis"
    • by rainmayun (842754)
      how'd you get that past the lameness filter? sorceress indeed...
    • by Knara (9377)
      Amateur websites will look like ass. Professional websites will look good. Just the same as always.
  • ...I can still let my browser render all websites with only 1 font and don't get a fucked up layout. If we are really lucky, there's a good font inside these packages to render math in a nice and readable way.
  • Yin and Yang... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @02:57PM (#32103546) Homepage

    On one hand, as a fan of typography, I'm happy to see that this gives talented web designers a powerful tool for clearer and more aesthetically pleasing display of information. On the other hand, there are still a lot of untalented web designers [thebiguglywebsite.com] around and it's more crap to download just to display a page. Whether the experience will be positive or negative will depend mainly on the size of the truck you have hauling your internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by swilver (617741)

      More aesthetically pleasing for whom?

      I use the fonts that I use because they look good on my screen setup. More fonts just means more websites that think I use a 800x600 screen, browse in full-screen mode, on a Windows Box using IE6. They might as well just serve me a picture of their website, it's probably less work and is atleast guaranteed to be pixel-perfect(TM) in any browser.

      Adding fonts to the mix will just means the pixel-pushing crowd of web-designers can make my life even more miserable.

  • by CherniyVolk (513591) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @03:00PM (#32103576)

    Fonts are often taken for granted. People don't seem to realize how expensive fonts can get.

    http://www.adobe.com/type/ - have a look around, some font sets are around 100 dollars a font, a bunch are pushing 400 and some of the most elegant script fonts hit well above 1,000 USD per font family... easy. Either way, when you tally them all up (who can live with just one or two), it's possible the most expensive treasure of print shops aren't their expensive Heidelberg presses but their vast fonts collection they are licensed to use in print and publication.

    The numbers of fonts needed... by artists and professionals? Well, to gain a perspective... how many of them for free do you have on your computer? Printing departments have thousands of full font collections (condensed, bold, italic etc).

    So when new fonts are made available for cheap/free, especially a full family of a given typeface, I am grateful even if the font is so-so. The Open Source community could benefit largely by being nice to budding typographers, this is for sure.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Since you asked, I've collected over 17,000 fonts at last count. Yeah, I'm a bit of a font freak. :)

      But my websites all use either 'default' or Arial, in the name of simple legibility. Since I can't dictate the viewer's hardware, software, and settings, it makes no sense to try to dictate the font, either.

      It's not like print media, where every copy looks the same no matter how the reader handles it. (Well, maybe not after he uses it in the bottom of the birdcage :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by shaunbr (563633) *

      And if you want to embed a font from one of the major foundries into a piece of software (a video game, for example), you're starting to talk real money. I wanted to use a particular font from one of the major foundries in a project of mine. You can purchase the font for fairly cheap, but the license only allows the use of the font by one person, and limits what kinds of output can be done with it. I requested a quote for embedding a bitmap of the font into my project, and the lowest price they quoted wa

    • by geekoid (135745)

      yeah,... getting paid over and over again for the same work? Man media artists have really scammed society.

  • by Intron (870560) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @03:05PM (#32103648)
    The font designers couldn't work with web technologies until recently. New AMD processors are finally hot enough to melt lead.
  • There are only a couple of good fonts, the rest doesn't render well at small sizes without antialiasing.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @04:02PM (#32104460) Homepage

    The Monotype approach to web fonts shows the pain of the latest DRM scheme. You don't just embed their fonts. You have to register with their site, create a "project", associate your domains with the "project", specify which fonts you want to use (only some are free), specify to their web site which font goes with which CSS element, and put some of their Javascript on your site. Only then will their fonts work, and they're served from their servers.

    One implication is that pages using their fonts will not archive properly. Another is that if their font servers are slow, so are your pages. And editing will be a pain; WYSISWYG editors may not display these fonts properly. (One would hope Adobe would get this right in Dreamweaver, but they'll probably try to tie Dreamweaver to some Adobe font system.)

  • by SuperDuck (16035) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @07:19PM (#32106434)

    "With a Free Tier License, you agree to place a line of Javascript on each web page on your Web Sites that Uses or accesses Web Font Software which will enable the Web Font Services. This also gives Monotype Imaging the right to invoke an ad unit to be placed on each web page that uses our Web Font Software, with the formatting and content of such ad unit to be determined by Monotype Imaging in its sole discretion."

    Nothing for free in this world, son, nothing for free.

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks

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