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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:


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:


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.


For the second year in a row, we vacationed in Springs Towers in North Myrtle Beach. It's an oceanfront condo with a pool and a hot tub. The beach was wonderful, the pool was wonderful, the weather was wonderful (except for a little one-day hurricane). There was only one problem: it was a typographical disaster.

[Please do not feed seagulls...] 3 signs, 3 fonts (click to zoom, then look at the "G" in each sign)
[Springs Towers, Units 701-703 to the left, units 704-706 to the right]1 sign, 3 fonts
[Emergencies: In case of builder and water leaks, call...] 3 fonts, no waiting
[Carolina Resorts Realty Property Management, Keith Hellmer, Broker In Charge] Could it be... Helvetica Bold Condensed? No, looks like a knock-off.
[Daily Rentals] I write like this sometimes, scrunching the last few lines because I'm running out of room. You don't have to type like this, though.
[Notice: No furniture between rails and pool] I'm beginning to think that restricting the web to 6 fonts wasn't such a bad thing
[DHEC Prohibits the use of this spa to persons under the age of 14 years] It's not the only thing
Emergency fire alarm] Bad typography is free
[Caution: Elderly persons ... should consult their physician before using the spa] My blood pressure was lower before I watched "Helvetica, the movie"
[Enter 4 diget code, turn knob right] "diget"
[Maximum # of 8 people in spa] Fail on so many levels
[Please place all trash in dumpsters located on street] Please place all your fonts in dumpsters
Shallow water, no diving allowed] Shallow water, condensed font. There's a perverse logic here. Perhaps I'm overthinking it.
[Pool equipment room, authorized persons only] It's like typography bingo night
[Turn timer off after leaving jacuzzi] Make it stop
[In case of fire, do not use elevators, use stairways] Could it be... Helvetica?


Taking an idea from Use the Best Available Ampersand and a list of pre-installed fonts from the Complete Guide to Pre-Installed Fonts in Linux, Mac, and Windows, I present "The Ampersands of Linux":

[ampersands in 28 fonts]


Please try to contain your excitement.


And you?