Google is awesome. The company has been redefining the word — a popular exclamatory for things far less breathtaking during my adolescence — as often as it customizes its logo over the past dozen years.
This week’s Google I/O keynote fiesta brought plenty of big, exciting, game-changing announcements, but nothing more immediately exciting to me than the launch of the Google Font API (Read Google’s blogpost). Suddenly adding sleek, new fonts to any web page is as easy as visiting the Google Font Directory, copying, pasting, and voila.
There are a few key reasons why I’m so excited about this and I’ll elaborate a bit below:
- The fonts are all open source-licensed
- It works on all current browsers (cross-platform)
- The fonts are cool and the possibilities are endless
There might be hundreds of fonts pre-installed on your Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite software, but only a fraction of these will be recognized by most web browsers. Standards take time to develop and our perception of time in the web era is ridiculously skewed. It’s been less than 15 years since Netscape 2.0 became the first widely used browser to support tags in the first place! 1995 was also the year that the first standard HTML spec was published (HTML 2.0) and around the same time momentum started building for a CSS standard. In the earliest days of the web as we know it, it was all Times New Roman all the time.
CSS2 brought with it capabilities to write in families of fonts, so that every visitor to a web page would see a related font, though not always as specific as the designer intended, depending on the browser. This table illustrates the limitations in font flexibility that we’ve been forced to stick to with organic text html code. Workarounds for displaying non-web-friendly fonts on a page include sIFR (which is Flash-based), Cufón, and good old image replacement. Basically there was no good alternative.
Now we’ve got the quickest shortcut to open-licensed, cross-platform fonts since… well it’s only been a few months since a bunch of designers and typographers got together to develop the Web Open Font Format, a soon-to-be-standardized font specification that wraps core web fonts (including Apple’s TrueType and Microsoft’s OpenType) into an encoded, embeddable file. Google also partnered with TypeKit to offer the Web Font Loader, offering more flexibility.
So today as we’re on the cusp of the HTML5 and CSS3 era, the web font revolution is finally coming to light. Let’s celebrate! I know I already did by flipping the font on this blog to Cantarell, by Dave Crossland, one of the initial fonts made available in the Google Font Directory. Now I better go test it out and some other browsers and make sure it works!
Check out the screencast below to see just how easy it is. Just want to play around with the fonts? Go to the font previewer.