Another very lengthy gap between posts. Anyway…it seems typographic developments on the web move just as slowly.
Font embedding is still the ongoing discussion on most of the boards, particularly because it was the theme of one of the Panels at TypeCon08 in July. Basically, Microsoft’s Bill Hill put forward the case for Embedded Open Type (EOT) which Microsoft in conjuction with Monotype and Ascender Corp have submitted to W3C to make it an open Web Standard. EOT enables web designers to embed Open Type fonts in a web page using a Microsoft tool, WEFT (Windows Embedding Font Tool).
EOT is supposed to offer several advantages for type designers, and web designers. For type designers EOT creation tools must respect the embedding permissions built-into their fonts, and EOTs are bound to a specific web page or site. This means that they are only for use with a specific URL. For web designers an EOT can contain a subset of the glyphs, and it can be compressed so download times are shorter. Ascender have launched a website explaining EOT in detail. However, the response to EOT is very mixed. It has been a hot topic of debate for some time now, with various discussions on Typophile (1) and (2), Bill Hill’s and Richard Rutter’s blogs etc.
Simon Daniels’ summary of the TypeCon panel is interesting if brief. David Berlow appears again – his viewpoint is strongly articulated in the Typophile discussions.
Anyway, while the squabbling continues about licensing and whether or not users should be able to download fonts or pay for them, some other important issues are being overshadowed. For example, what existing typefaces (designed for print media) are suitable for screen reading? This requires some serious study as clearly many print typefaces are not suitable for web design. What design characteristics should be present in a typeface suitable for on-screen reading? Also, with the exception of Microsoft’s C fonts and the various clatter of mobile phone typefaces, there is much less type design for the screen platform despite its ubiquity and massive growth potential. Interestingly, Ascender Corp and Microsoft carried out a survey of free fonts to identify important characteristics that would be helpful in determining the quality or integrity of these fonts. While this is useful in checking if these typefaces will actually work with the various OS’s and what type of embedded license data they contain, it does not assess their suitablity for readability/usability on the web. There is also no discussion of the merits of the type’s form and its characteristic representation on screens.
David Berlow wryly notes that there are no winners in the 5,000 fonts surveyed by Ascender and that the study proves ‘what most of us here, have known for a long time — Fonts that are good for the web, take work in the TrueType hinting tables, Code Pages, Name tables, Embedding restrictions and etc…’
The forthcoming Atypi conference in St. Petersburg has an interesting line up, notably the panel The war over web fonts, chaired by Roger Black (The Font Bureau) with presentations from Si Daniels (Microsoft), Thomas Phinney (Adobe) and Håkon Lie (Opera). Two other interesting screen typography presentations will be given by Adam Twardoch (FontLabs), one of which discusses the minute of optimising typefaces for screen while the other presents Setting web typography free.