Ever wanted to read a magazine online?
It’s a frustrating experience, isn’t it. The many qualities that makes a magazine a magazine — beautiful, full-bleed photography, dynamic, visually-interesting layouts and the big, bold typefaces — just aren’t there.
On the Web, a magazine is just…words. Old news, really.
The makers of Typekit are intent on changing that.
Browser competition (and thus innovation) has been heating up for some time, and one of the latest advancements is their ability to recognize a CSS rule known as @font-face. That may read too geeky for you, but it effectively means that Web developers can now embed downloadable fonts in their pages.
In other words: no more Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia or Verdana — the fonts that make the Web look so inescapably…boring.
(And yes, this blog ipost is written in Helvetica, in case you were wondering.)
If you happen to have Firefox 3.5 or Safari 4 installed on your computer, check out this site and notice the new typefaces on the page.
Or check out the screenshot to the right.
If you clicked through to the site, you’ll notice none of the text is embedded in an image or Flash object. It’s all real text, meaning it’s selectable (copy, paste) and SEO-friendly. Pretty neat, huh?
You may think such advancements are minor or trivial (ooh great, pretty fonts, so what?), but they have such incredible potential to change the way we experience the Web. Reading the news at NYTimes.com (or your local paper) may have the same feel as the printed version, while magazine websites such as the one for Vanity Fair might actually reflect the years of design refinement of the printed magazine.
And since hardware to read information is growing ever more ubiquitous — from mobile Web on the smartphone to the Internet-connected Amazon Kindle — it might mean those devices will get much closer to actually representing what’s on the screen as it should be.
The problem is that it might get you in legal hot water. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo explains:
But there’s a hitch with @font-face: Your browser has to download new fonts to your hard drive before it can display them. Companies that sell fonts—known as foundries—are understandably wary about that process; they worry that letting their typefaces out on the Web could Napster-ize their industry. So while it’s now technically possible to display any font you like on your page, you could be in legal hot water if you actually do so.
So what role does Typekit have in all this?
The startup aims to solve the legal conundrum and facilitate the @font-face development by making deals with dozens of foundries and offering them up for free or for a subscription fee, depending on the size of your site. They’ll enforce the agreement with a bit of code to add to your Web page so that you won’t get in legal hot water when someone comes across your site and notices the premium font you’re using.
Typekit’s licensing hurdle is just strong enough to prevent “casual misuse,” as it says on Typekit’s site. The benefit for creative property owners such as foundries, besides the security aspect, is that Typekit will serve as a one-stop shop for customers, now enabled to display typefaces on their sites, to use them legally.
And the Web will never look the same.