Browsers: Fonts - why not embed?

started by Jdenny on May 28, 2004 — RSS Feed

Jdenny Jdenny
Posts: 65

Can anyone understand why embedding fonts in web pages never took off?

When there was only IE and NN there was the technology to embed fonts into web pages fairly easily but then when NN got the gecko engine it stopped supporting it. So now the only browser supporting embedded fonts is IE (and NN4.x)!

Why don't other browsers support it - especially mozilla (and new navigator and firefox), IE-Mac, Safari? I think Opera supports it the same as IE.

Ok now  as IE has a big lead on the browser usage stats, why don't more people embed fonts for IE use only?

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

The process is very clumsy. When you download a page it first displays in the default font and then it requests the font information. When that has downloaded, then you see the embedded font. You get this very noticable refresh of the page where the font style changes after an indeterminate period of time.

So, not only does it bump up the bandwidth, it has this nasty refresh effect. Much as I would like to use other fonts, that certainly put me off using it.

Having said that, there are a lot more fonts that could be used than the usual Arial, Times, Verdana, Georgia, Helvetica. Modern versions of Windows and Mac OSX come with hundreds of fonts that can be used fairly safely.

I have an article planned for the near future that suggest some 'new' sets that are available with close alternatives on Mac and PC. You will still have to tag the old ones onto the end of the list for backwards compatibility.

Bk Bk
Posts: 6

Surely what you mention is an IMPLEMENTATION problem that need not be, whereas I believe the original question was meant in a philosophical sense.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

In theory, yes!

Jdenny Jdenny
Posts: 65

hmm yes I can see the font changing after the page is already displayed is a biggy, but a pre-load script could do the trick, although its nod ideal.

I'll be looking forward to your new list then Joe!

And lloking forward to a standard and better font embedding technology!

When (if?) SVG eventually gets full support, I think i read fonts can be embedded in there too!

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

A preload script still takes time to download a font. What is on the screen in the meantime - 'loading fonts please wait...'

SVG has not set the World on fire because Flash is already there and does much the same thing. You can argue about the benefits of SVG all day but  market acceptance has nothing to do with any of them. Sadly, we live in a World where, most of the time, common sense does not prevail.

Jdenny Jdenny
Posts: 65

what would be really handy is if Flash added full SVG support to their plug-in so we can start using it much more confidently while we wait for the browsers to support it natively.

But like you said, this is not a common sense world!

Kam Kam
Posts: 4

For a new take on a sort of font embedding, I came across this yesterday at A List Apart, from 15 June 2004:
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/dynatext/

Stewart Rosenberger discusses his method of "Dynamic Text Replacement" using javascript and PHP. Worth a look, anyway. There are several pages of discussion about it, also.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

Well, it's not exactly new. I (and others) been using that technique to display pixel fonts dynamically for a couple of years now.

It actually works better with pixel fonts than it does with anti-aliased fonts because OpenType's anti-aliasing is very poor and with pixel fonts, you don't need anti-aliasing.

Even under ideal internet weather conditions, it still slows page load times and the chances of things going wrong are magnified considerably. I wouldn't use it on a regular Web page.

Mrblack Mrblack
Posts: 40

kam said:
For a new take on a sort of font embedding, I came across this yesterday at A List Apart, from 15 June 2004:
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/dynatext/

Wow, the javascript approach looks particularily "exciting".

If you do this with PHP you'll want to increase the maximum amount of memory any particular page is allowed to consume...

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