Coming soon: A Web upon which every site has its own font

Within the next few major browser version releases, we should see the ability for websites to use custom fonts without fear of that font being “stolen” become a reality.

The Economist – Web font will flourish: True to type

WOFF (Web Open Font Format) allows designers to package fonts using either of the two major desktop formats—themselves remnants of font wars of yore—in a way approved by all major and most minor foundries. It doesn’t protect the typefaces with encryption, but with a girdle of ownership defined in clear text.

Future versions of browsers from the three groups will add full WOFF support. Apple’s Safari and its underlying WebKit rendering engine used for nearly all mobile operating systems’ browsers will adopt WOFF, as will Google Chrome and its variants. WOFF was proposed in October 2009, presented to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in April 2010 by Microsoft, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software, and adopted as a draft in July, remarkably quickly for such an about face.

At the annual meeting of the typoscenti at the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) last month in Dublin, all the web font talk was about WOFF and moving forward to offer more faces, services and integration, says John Berry, the president of ATypI, and part of Mr Daniels’ typography group at Microsoft. “The floodgates have opened,” says Mr Berry. “All the font foundries and many of the designers are offering their fonts or subsets of their fonts.”

Several sites now offer a subscription-based combination of font licensing and simple JavaScript code to insert on web pages to ensure that a specified type loads on browsers—even older ones still in use. Online font services include TypeKit, Webtype, and Monotype’s, to name but a few. Designers don’t load the faces on their own websites, but stream them as small packages, cached by browsers, from the licence owner’s servers.

The long-term effect of the campaign for real type will be a gradual branding of sites, whether those created by talented individuals or multi-billion-dollar corporations, or based on choices in templates used in blogging and other platforms. Just as a regular reader of the print edition of this newspaper can recognise it in a flash across a room, so, too, will an online edition have the pizazz (or lack thereof) of a print publication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *