Web fonts!

This morning at the Google I/O conference, Google announced a bunch of stuff. But the thing I'm personally most excited by is the announcement of the Google Font API.

For y'all non-programmers, don't be scared by the term “API.” In non-programmer terms, what this announcement means is that any web designer or developer—or, indeed, anyone who can edit the HTML and CSS of their own web pages—can now use high-quality free fonts in their web pages, by adding one line of HTML code and one line of CSS.

To try out a super-easy example yourself, see the getting started page.

This is cool for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, a lot of the text that web designers usually embed in images can now be displayed as plain text, which often means faster load times, and almost certainly means better maintainability and accessibility. It also means you can apply all sorts of CSS styling to that text—for example, you can add subtle drop shadows with one line of CSS.

I've changed the entry titles in my blog to use a fancy open source font called “Tangerine”; I may end up changing them to something else at some point, but if you're reading this entry elsewhere and want to see how it looks, stop by my blog.

The basic capability to do all this has actually been around for a while, but the Google system makes it easier to use, and makes it work better across browsers, and provides a directory of free fonts, and gives other advantages. For example, for more technical folks, Google and TypeKit have collaborated on the WebFont Loader JavaScript library, which gives you more control over exactly how the web fonts display.

But again, you don't need to be super-technical to use the Font API itself. Just don't get carried away in filling up your page with lots of fonts; follow good design principles.

5 Responses to “Web fonts!”

  1. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

    This is incredibly exciting!

    Any chance do you think that they can use licensed fonts in the future? I won’t rest happy until I can use Zapfino in my web pages.

  2. Jed

    I don’t know what their future plans are, but I doubt they’ll ever include fonts that aren’t open source. One reason web fonts have taken so long to achieve wide adoption is that many commercial font makers are worried that their fonts will be pirated; to display a font on a web page, the browser has to download the font, and once the font is downloaded, it can be copied and reused.

    Some smaller type foundries’s fonts are available for web use via TypeKit; for example, they currently provide about 50 script fonts. But I doubt that they’ll be providing Zapfino or other commercial fonts from big foundries anytime soon.

    (In case you’re curious about TypeKit, the way it works is that you pay an annual fee to use their fonts on your site. They currently have about 500 fonts, and I gather they’re adding more over time.)

  3. Michael

    I’m really glad to see this implemented in a way that respects font licenses!

  4. brainwane

    I think the new fonts look lovely on your blog.

  5. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Whee! This is very exciting indeed.

    And I will now fight the urge to completely redo my website.


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