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Internet Friendly Google offers Web designers hosted, open-source Web fonts
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Google offers Web designers hosted, open-source Web fonts

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Web typography just got a shot in the arm from Google, as the company has announced a free, open-source library of 18 typefaces that Web designers will now have at their disposal. Google hosts all the fonts on its servers,

and offers a simple Web-based API that handles all the browser differences behind the scenes. Furthermore, Web font service provider TypeKit has partnered with Google to offer an additional open-source JavaScript library called WebFont Loader for even more control over how fonts are loaded by the browser.

 

The state of the art in Web typography just a few years ago consisted of relying on a short list of "Web fonts" common to nearly every platform. Anything fancier required replacing text with images, which looked great but hampered usability, especially for those with disabilities. More advanced techniques came along, but they involved replacing the text with Flash or SVG graphics instead of static images.

Though Internet Explorer was really one of the first browsers to offer support for embeddable fonts, it currently relies on the Embedded OpenType (EOT) format, which never gained much traction with font vendors. Apple threw down the Web font gauntlet by imbuing Safari 3.1 with the ability to download any TrueType or OpenType font file to use with the CSS @font-face directive. Later versions of Firefox, Opera, and Chrome now support these fonts via @font-face.

This didn't solve every problem, however. Type vendors were wary of licensing fonts for Web use and concerned about the ease with which font files could be copied. Several Web font services—notably TypeKit, Fontdeck, and Typotheque—have recently launched, providing Web designers with a hosted solution that handles the licensing of fonts as well as serving them in a way that prevents easy copying.

Several type designers also worked behind the scenes to develop a standard Web font format that would satisfy the needs of type vendors and provide a simple way for designers and developers to license and use the fonts. Called Web Open Font Format (WOFF), the format has been endorsed by a number of type designers and vendors. Mozilla already includes basic support for WOFF in the latest versions of Firefox, and is currently working on ways to implement more advanced typographic control via CSS. Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer 9 will support WOFF, and Google is integrating support into Chrome.

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