Monday, April 27th, 2009

Excuse me, maybe, the foundries, erm, let’s mess with em?

Category: Editorial

Mark Pilgrim has a certain style, and it was in full force on his latest post on font issues that we have on the Web.

Some people are offended by tone and such, but if you ignore that, Mark is actually normally spot on!

In this case, the font world feels like the DRM world of music. They can battle up hill all they want, but if they don’t start working with their users (who are willing to pay for fonts, just like we are willing to pay for music!) they will find themselves in big trouble.

I was chatting with a GFX engineer on Firefox and after a fun time talking about how freaking fun it is to get fonts right cross platform (holy subtle-ties batman!) he pointed to a nice M+ font (multiple weights etc):

There are tons of great open source fonts out there. One day, instead of looking up to the foundries in their ivory towers in the sky, we will look down on the floor and see the gold is right there! And, then what? What will the foundries have after they push everyone to go the open source route?

Let’s enjoy font squirrel and find some nice friendly fonts and use them to make the Web more fontific, and hope that the other chaps work out how to play nicely.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 6:07 am

3.7 rating from 21 votes


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This article is pathetic.
His author should learn about respect and real argumentation, not sophism.

Comment by ywg — April 27, 2009

Thanks for the link to this nice resource I didn’t know about. Wow, a few monospace fonts I had never seen before! I am fascinated by the thought process this article makes, even if accidentally. Free software proponents use a lot of arguments to promote free over non-free. But this argument “while the non-free world does a circle jerk with itself, the free world will be over here making stuff” is the most compelling to me.

Comment by JohnDeHope3 — April 27, 2009

Any way we could get Google to host free fonts the way Google hosts free JavaScript Libraries?

It’d be a lot easier to justify using a font if I knew it could be served via Google’s massive pipes.

Comment by Nosredna — April 27, 2009

But this argument “while the non-free world does a circle jerk with itself, the free world will be over here making stuff” is the most compelling to me.

And it appears the “new browser wars” are an apt example of this principle, at least in terms of the rendering engines*, and the FOSS selection growing and continually taking away users from the proprietary behemoth.

* Yes, Safari is a proprietary browser, but WebKit is open source, and Safari is increasingly treated as free, in terms of Apple’s attention to public expectations and respect for platform, as well as Apple’s continued improvement in the WebKit open-source project.

* * *


I think that’s a false problem. Most fonts are around the same size as a good quality photo. Do you expect Google to begin hosting photos as well? A better approach would be to set up caching correctly, and (for the sake of your users, for a variety of reasons) minimize your font selection.

Comment by eyelidlessness — April 27, 2009

Dion, Thanks for posting the font resource, and in particular linking that specific font. Its thin weight is excellent.

Comment by eyelidlessness — April 27, 2009


If the fonts were common to many websites, is there a way they could be cached across all websites if there were served from a common site?

What I don’t want is that first hit. If the font came down just once for all sites, that would be good.

Comment by Nosredna — April 27, 2009

the article’s tone may not be to everybody’s taste, but it is appropriate considering the incredible amount of FUD that has been built around fonts. fonts are at the very heart of a culture and a web that is so much about reading and writing. yet to this date there is hardly a single reasonable open source font editor. font formats are too complex (i know it is a complex subject, but there is still too much black magic involved when building a font). foundries want us to believe that while embedding text, images, sound, and video in webpages all have become commonplace, embedding a font is a crime. fonts have to become simpler and more open.

if you doubt that fonts could be simpler, look at how simple the formats provided by and are, and what results they deliver. there are no arcane binaries, there is no hinting, yet display quality sometimes surpasses that of commercial fonts on the screen. i’ll admit anytime that there is a noticeable distance between these javascript/canvas solutions and what is required for full-fledged typesetting. however, these solutions go all of the 80% of what is needed, and i am confident that adding the remaining 20% (ligatures, kerning &c) is not going to put them anywhere near the incredible technological b.s. and artificial complexity that has gone into fonts.

if you doubt that fonts should be open, look at the gazillions of medium and high quality fonts available right now, right here. designing a good font is both a science and an art, and i want the craftsmen and artists being able to live from it. but building even more DRM into more products—as suggested in the interview of the OT—cannot be the solution.

Comment by loveencounterflow — April 28, 2009

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