Google getting into the Web Fonts game?

blank's picture

Oh great, now when I go to web sites I’ll have to wait for the slow Google Analytics servers and the slow Google fonts servers.

clauses's picture

Rumors were true then.

aluminum's picture

Umm...I'm not positive by anymeans, but the domain listed appears to not be a google domain:

http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=googleusercontent.com/

If it is, it's odd that it'd be serving malware, but I suppose if it's unmonitored user content, that could be the case.

laniblaze's picture

What is the "web fonts game"?

blank's picture

What is the "web fonts game"?

That’s the one where you design a font for web use and everybody places bets on what rendering method makes the font look best. You get extra points if designers don’t think you’re crazy when you try to explain that great web text fonts will probably require optical sizes customized for different rendering environments.

raph's picture

Yes, we're live now at code.google.com/webfonts. I'll post more in a bit, but I'm hugely excited about this. A huge shoutout to typophile as well, I reached out to a bunch of designers through contacts here.

@aluminum: It is a Google domain, but is split off into a separate domain because it does host less-trusted content, including uploads from users.

@James: Hey, I think Google servers are pretty fast :)

aluminum's picture

No doubt that leveraging Google's CDN capabilities can be a good thing speed-wise for lots of sites. Raph...what's your involvement with he project?

Paul Irish just posted some details too:

http://paulirish.com/2010/details-on-the-new-google-webfont-api/

raph's picture

@aluminum: It's basically my baby, with lots of help from the rest of the team :)

neumann's picture

Raph, I eagerly await your more detailed post and hope you can offer insight into the project, it's scope, goals, benefits and drawbacks.

Also, would be interested to hear any opinions on the quality of these initial fonts posted here: http://code.google.com/webfonts

neumann's picture

One thing that I've been thinking about/anticipating for a long time in regards to webfonts....

A whole lot of people are going to subject their readers to display fonts at body copy sizing. Which is even more troubling than in the print world because not only is it stylistically dubious... most display font on screen simply can't hold up to small sizes at screen resolutions.

Case in point... Josefin Sans Std Light. One of the inititial fonts on the google webfonts project. Looking at the specimen (http://code.google.com/webfonts/family?family=Josefin+Sans+Std+Light) it barely holds up below 30 px.

Jack B. Nimblest Jr.'s picture

>...most display font on screen simply can't hold up to small sizes at screen resolutions.

It seems simple to recommend ranges of use per style. You can't stop them, but you can guide them.

I found this site very interesting. While bouncing simple samples off the server, it seems to 1.5X the size you ask for, points, pixels or ems? At least it measures that way on my Mac in Firefox and Safari. So maybe text is less of a problem that way... ;)

Cheers!

blank's picture

Also, would be interested to hear any opinions on the quality of these initial fonts posted here:

I wouldn’t say that any of these fonts is a bad screen type. But I really don’t see why Google offering free hosting of these fonts is necessary, or even especially useful. There are already other options out there for free font hosting and for converting such fonts for self hosting. And history suggests that the open-source crowd will eventually create many more offerings just for the sake of doing it.

More importantly, you also noted, most these fonts aren’t going to work at smaller sizes. If Google really wants to add something of value to the web fonts world it needs to go beyond offering the same free fonts that everyone else will. Commissioning type designers to build out open-source screen type families with a wide range of character sets would be much more valuable then hosting extant free fonts ;)

blank's picture

And just to be clear: that comment was entirely in reference to Google hosting those fonts. I do feel that Google putting another open-source web font API out there is probably a good, valuable thing.

Joe Pemberton's picture

Shout out to Ascender Corporation for the Droid fonts (well, a few of the weights). Google commissioned Droid for the Android OS, and should work very well in small sizes. (Saying this without testing it in a web context.)

Richard Fink's picture

Droid works great small. That's what it was optimized for.
Serif test page: Droid Serif Test.

johnnydib's picture

Whenever there's a discussion on webfonts, I feel there's a missing point of view. And that is the point of view of Windows users who's only concern with screen typography is 'reading'. On Windows XP and earlier the default rendering of text is plain old Aliased Type (Unless of course you're running an application that renders type differently e.g. Acrobat Reader, Office 2007 etc...)

Aliased Type

Good old Aliased type works perfectly for reading on screen (Courier, Verdana, Georgia at sizes ranging from 8 to somewhere in the teens are pleasant to the eye and easy on the brain). Quality typefaces whether an FF Library font or a TDC Awarad Winner, whether FontShop dubs it 'Web' or it bears the name Droid, all of these and the thousands of print typefaces out there don't even come close to the quality of the "Core System Fonts" when it comes to reading aliased type in your web browser.

Anti-Aliasing

The Macintosh has had a great anti-aliasing engine for years now. The baseline and the x-height always align (Unlike PDFs) it looks phenomenal in small sizes even readable in size 6 for certain typefaces. It is part of the OS it is always turned on you don't have to worry about it. It works in all applications unless the application over-rides it. Conclusion: text on the Mac is beautiful to look at, the new @fontface websites look delicious.
On Windows it is optional to turn on Anti-Aliasing, but with all my respect to those who worked on the algorithm, it looks like a beta. The thing is the Microsoft guys were very resistant to the idea of imitating paper on screen.
So if you're publishing websites for Mac users to view then the future is now. Otherwise, wait for Microsoft to buy or steal the Apple Anti-Aliasing algorithm and for all PC users to switch to that latest technology, or figure out new fonts that look good when Aliased and yet are beautiful typefaces when it comes to their Contour and overall texture. "The" example to follow is Georgia. Oh wait Verdana Condensed sounds like a good start.

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Google Chrome on Windows XP


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IE8: The new Internet Explorer slaps Clear-Type on everything

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Spiekermann.com // Google Chrome

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IE8 fail, the only thing worse than Arial on Erik Spiekermann's website is Anti-Aliased Arial on Erik Spiekermann's website.

neumann's picture

it is true... text rendering on windows is pretty terrible. "Clear-type" is a hack that is being marketed as a feature. I can consistently see the color fringes on clear type handled text... and it bugs me a lot.

The interesting thing—which gives weight to the argument that the type with which a reader is most familiar is the most legible—is that many a longtime XP user will complain that fonts rendered on Macs are too "fuzzy". It infuriates me.. but it's a fact.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

@Johnny: Most of us (not counting those who are visiting Typophile only for ID requests) are not unaware of the challenge different rendering engines pose. The approaches to rendering differs, yes, but so does the opinions about which one’s the best. This terrain is hard to navigate anyways. There’s multiple rendering settings, multiple browsers, multiple OS’s and multiple font formats.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

And a lot of drag too, with users still running old versions of OS’s and browsers.

Nick Sherman's picture

Indeed; it's very hard to definitively say that any web font "works great small". Droid might work alright in one environment, but it also falls apart in other environments.

While a discussion over which rendering approach is best probably won't help much, I do agree with Johnny that many people – even those of us who should know better – often don't take the time to check how things look across the board. And understandably so; doing a proper test even in a minimal number of browsers can be a pain.

Unfortunately, it seems that a majority of the people who only check one environment seem to do so in one of the more forgiving environments (on a Mac).

johnnydib's picture

@Nick, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

@Neumann, I've heard the "fuzzy" comment but I've also heard "Holy Shit, this screen has a really high resolution"

@Frode Support is eventually discontinued but XP is one of the most widely used. I agree there's way too many browsers with way too many surprising results. I don't know if this is the result of the free market or of the disregard to regulations and conventions.

blank's picture

Unfortunately, it seems that a majority of the people who only check one environment seem to do so in one of the more forgiving environments (on a Mac).

I don’t think that checking is the problem. It’s that not many people have the resources to develop well-hinted TrueType fonts, much less check to see how they look. Microsoft needs to get on the ball and make TrueType-hinting more designer friendly or the Windows rendering problems aren’t going away.

Nick Shinn's picture

Cardo-nal Bembo.
Cute.

Nick Sherman's picture

For those who haven't seen the new Google font directory site through the lens of Windows yet, these screenshots of some of the font samples with the default settings in IE8 on a Vista machine give Johnny's complaints a bit more context…

Vollkorn:

Crimson Text:

Cardo:

Regardless of your personal antialiasing preference, I think it's safe to say that the fonts above aren't very usable (of course I'm always open to other thoughts). I fully realize that text fonts which render well in Windows are hard to make (nevermind get as open source), but I'm surprised that most of the stuff in the current Google font directory made the cut.

aluminum's picture

@raph...thanks for all the info and participating in the discussion!

@james...the main benefit of using Google to host the web fonts (over any other option) is primarily ubiquity. Lots of folks are using Google as a CDN for things like jQuery where not only is it then being requested from a large (and localized?) CDN, but the odds of the file already being cached in the user's browser is increased.

Richard Fink's picture

@nicksherman

>I think it's safe to say that the fonts above aren't very usable

They'll get used anyway. Don't delude yourself.
It ain't what they is, it's what they're not. TNFG. (They're not f-cking Georgia.)
And they are free. Free counts for a lot.

Besides, betcha the look of these fonts can be improved greatly without much ado.

Gonna give it a try myself. Free, right?

Let you know.

Rich

James Deux's picture

@neumann:

riccard0's picture

A little OT, but I find interesting that at least two of the initial offerings are typefaces put up for critique on Typophile.

neumann's picture

I feel that since the @fontface now google web fonts trains have left the station..

the best way to mitigate disaster might be as dberlow commented "It seems simple to recommend ranges of use per style. You can't stop them, but you can guide them."

Raph—if you're still reading this thread—any consideration of providing some recommended uses and sizes info in a prominent place for each font sample.

jayyy's picture

I stumbled across Typekit just now while looking at all this Google fonts business. Why would it be preferable to use Google's service for @font-face type hosting when they have a pretty crappy catalog of unknown faces when a designer could use Typekit for quite a nominal fee?

Forgive me if I sound uninformed, but I am.

Also, I use Mac OS and do not have the nasty rendering issues PC users experience as described above. I presume using a service like Typekit does not solve these issues of rendering disparities on different platforms, browsers, engines etc?

pers0n's picture

Awesome, hope they add most of the stuff Font-Squirrel has @font-face kits for

aluminum's picture

@jayyy there are technical/performance reasons to choose a hosted Google solution (CDN/caching, etc), but your criteria is broad commercial font selection at this very moment, then typekit is the better option for now.

catcubed's picture

Hey all, I took screenshots and compared of each of the typefaces in all three main Windows rendering styles: ClearType, Standard, and Anti-Aliasing Off. Unsurprisingly, the Droid Family is the only font in this set that I would use for body text. All others are only suitable for headers or display text. And I would avoid using Inconsolata, Tangerine, Josefin, and Cardo except at really large display sizes (36px or larger).

You can see my font comparison chart here. Each font listed links to it's corresponding screenshot to make it a handy reference for all you mac-only designers.

abattis's picture

@James Puckett: Google is indeed commissioning type designers to do new work; I put Raph in touch with some MATD/T&M graduates, and Vernon Adams (MATD) produced http://code.google.com/webfonts/family?family=Nobile for the directory.

If anyone would like to contribute a font, complete this form:

http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2010/05/introducing-google-font-api-googl...

oneweioranother's picture

maybe this is off topic, but who else offers web font hosting now?
right now from a quick search its:

typekit
fontdeck
fontslive
typefront
fontspring
google fonts?
kernest
typotheque webfonts

any more?

[edit: added extras]

paul.irish's picture

Ascender Fonts
webfonts.fonts.com
Fontshop

* fontspring doesn't host, it's purely retail.

I'd bet there are a few more in the works, too... sigh

Tim Ahrens's picture

Nick,
I'm surprised that most of the stuff in the current Google font directory made the cut.

I guess we just have to accept that not all hits offered by Google are perfect. When you do a normal Google website search and 5 out of 10 hits are useless you don't complain, you just use the other ones. Google is pretty good at finding relevant results but you still have to filter out a lot of junk yourself. I don't have a problem with that, whether it is about websites of fonts. Maybe they will come up with a smart ranking system that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Richard Fink's picture

@tim ahrens

When you do a normal Google website search and 5 out of 10 hits are useless you don't complain, you just use the other ones.

Maybe they will come up with a smart ranking system that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Thank you for stating the obvious - it too often goes overlooked.

1) If a font looks really awful, don't waste time with it, pass it by. Plenty more further down the list, or on another site.

2) Ranking system - of course, there are many ways to handle this. User comments is one. A human editor whose job it is to prioritize is another one. (Wondering if this will be in Raph's remit.)
Typekit's gallery is terrific - because you can see their fonts as they are actually being used in the context of a complete design.

However, with typefaces, what looks good IS good. So, as long as the font is being shown using an in-browser specimen that you can examine, it's not like any secrets are being kept.
It will take awhile for all of this to sink in.

rich

Richard Fink's picture

@jayyy

Why would it be preferable to use Google's service for @font-face type hosting when they have a pretty crappy catalog of unknown faces when a designer could use Typekit for quite a nominal fee?

Two things:
1) I expect sharp improvements in the Google selections very quickly. When Typekit first announced, they had NO CATALOG. Nothing. They were in private Beta (if that) with nothing to see at all. Vaporware.
Google's style is different, they don't mind releasing with next to nothing and evolving in full public view.
And in that there is now precedent for font hosting and they don't have to deal with complex licensing issues from commercial font designers concerned with unlicensed copying, expanding the catalog is a lot easier and can be expected to move much more quickly than it did for Typekit.

2) Because the fonts are freely licensed, there aren't any of the inefficiencies involved with obfuscation if you use Google. Typekit's appeal to font designers is that they have a strategy in place to discourage download-and-installation.
With Google (and Kernest, to name one other), you can use straightforward CSS. (Their javascript API is cool to have, but optional. Icing on the cake.)

Them's the differences that I can see right now.

johnnydib's picture

I don't think the "catalog is crappy". The fonts offered are great in my opinion. I found Barry Schwartz's Goudy to be a closer match to my 24pt Goudy Old Style Italic metal font than Adobe's. Iconsolata is a personal favorite.

The Google team working on this is doing a great job, and the service they offer is great. The only problem is rendering and that's not Google's problem.

The @font-face model (delivering the fonts and not controlling the outcome) is one way to approach typography on the web. The other model is delivering rendered type (for example: GIF, Flash etc...) a great example of that is the Featured Face here on Typophile, another great example is the Preview on MyFonts and other font retailers; this reminds me of the 3rd party typesetter it's like working with Linotype lines and Linocuts instead of moveable type.

@font-face is like cast Glass Type. Unlike Lead Type(web safe fonts) it breaks it doesn't bend. But with appropriate ink(Browser) and an appropriate Press(OS) and above all with a skilled printer(Web Designer) it may very well produce great results.

paul d hunt's picture

does today's google doodle count as a 'web fonts game'? http://www.google.com/

jayyy's picture

So do any of these services allow you to upload your purchased type for online use that would comply with most EULA's and not allow end-user pirating of the type?

Cufon *seems* to fit the bill. TypeFront does but states you must use type with a "web-friendly license"...

Si_Daniels's picture

>does today's google doodle count as a 'web fonts game'?

Maybe. Wonder where they got the idea... :-)

http://www.microsoft.com/typography/web/embedding/demos/7/about7.aspx

Cheers, Si

jonasthyssen's picture

I fail to see why i would want load the @fontface from gooogle rather than my own server.

Richard Fink's picture

@jamespuckett

I don’t think that checking is the problem. It’s that not many people have the resources to develop well-hinted TrueType fonts, much less check to see how they look. Microsoft needs to get on the ball and make TrueType-hinting more designer friendly or the Windows rendering problems aren’t going away.

You've got it right. In a world where everything was funneled through the OS - mostly Windows, obviously - Microsoft's reliance on a small group of font technologists that already knew the ropes was tolerable. Now it isn't. But it's been neglected too long for it to be easily undone.
TrueType is extremely under-supported - especially hinting. There's been no investment in learning materials. This is obviously a frustration for professional type designers, so you can imagine how a novice feels.
How many expert TrueType hinters are there in the world? A dozen, maybe? It's kind of nuts.

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