The more I read about embedded web fonts, the more I crystalize my thinking. Take, for example, this latest "A List Apart" article where Jeffrey Zeldman interviews David Berlow:
Zeldman: Let me put it another way. I want to use your ITC Franklin in a site I'm designing, but I'm not willing to violate my end user licensing agreement. How do we resolve this impasse, from your perspective?
Berlow: The next step is for those who control the font format(s) to define and document a permissions table to be added with all due haste to the OpenType, CoolType, TrueType, and FreeType formats. ...
Zeldman: How can type designers and web designers work together to persuade the engineers who control the formats to modify the code to include a permissions table?
Berlow: [W]eb designers flat-out refused to part with real type, which has filled the web with type as graphic files, scaring the bejesus out of a lot of engineering people. ... How important dynamically rendered type is to design and use on the web must now be clear. In addition, the only other option -- that the type industry cede its intellectual property to the public without permission -- is not going to happen. With no upgrade penalty to any applications, or change in usage by the public, the permissions table is the only invisible (type-like) solution.
I like how he focuses on the publisher's end of the problem -- "gee, all we have to do is define this permissions table, that sounds easy." What he fails to mention is that every font-consuming application on every platform on every computer on Earth will need to be "upgraded" to "respect" this permissions table. Because otherwise they're not really permissions, are they? They're just useless bits taking valuable chunks out of my metered bandwidth plan. Like the bozo bit without the bozo.
This, then, is my current thinking about embedded web fonts:
FUCK THE FOUNDRIES
Seriously. Fuck them. They still think they're in the business of shuffling little bits of metal around. You want to use a super-cool ultra-awesome totally-not-one-of-the-11-web-safe-fonts? Pick an open source font and get on with your life.
I know what you're going to say. I can hear it in my head already. It sounds like the voice of the comic book guy from The Simpsons. You're going to say, "Typography is by professionals, for professionals. Free fonts are worth less than you pay for them. They don't have good hinting. They don't come in different weights. They don't have anything near complete Unicode coverage. They don't, they don't, they don't..."
And you're right. You're absolutely, completely, totally, 100% right. "Your Fonts" are professionally designed, traditionally licensed, aggressively marketed, and bought by professional designers who know a professional typeface when they see it. "Our Fonts" are nothing more than toys, and I'm the guy showing up at the Philadelphia Orchestra auditions with a tin drum and a kazoo. "Ha ha, look at the freetard with his little toy fonts, that he wants to put on his little toy web page, where they can be seen by 2 billion people ha h... wait, what?"
Let me put it another way. Your Fonts are superior to Our Fonts in every conceivable way, except one:
WE CAN’T FUCKING USE THEM
Soon -- and I mean really fucking soon, like "this year" soon -- there will be enough different browsers in the hands of enough different people that can use any possible font on any possible web page. And then a whole lotta people will start noticing fonts again -- not just Your People, just also Our People. People who couldn't tell a serif from a hole in their head, but they're gonna be looking for new fonts. People who are just savvy enough to be tired of Comic Sans will be looking for a new font to "spruce up" their elementary school newsletter, which, in an effort to Love Our Mother (Earth), they now publish exclusively online.
And maybe, just maybe, they'll stumble across Jeffrey Zeldman's excellent interview with highly talented David Berlow and think, "Wow, this guy has over 300 fonts! That's awesome! Where can I download them?" And boy, won't they be surprised to learn that those 300 fonts can only be used offline. Epic fail.
Dynamic web fonts are coming. Actually they're already here, but most of Our People haven't noticed yet. But they will, and that's going to be a huge boon to somebody. I see you've decided that it won't be you. Well, have fun shuffling your little bits of metal around. The rest of us will be over here, using the only fonts we're allowed to use: Everything But Yours.