HAYCORN — 15 June 2008

CSS files for embeddable fonts

[Update The site webfonts.info has a list of the fonts available for embedding, and two of the three fonts I list below (Liberation and Vera) aren’t present. So although these fonts are freely redistributable, it seems they’re not actually available for embedding. I’m not what the legal distinction is—?]

Safari now supports downloadable fonts, meaning that—from a technical perspective—web pages can appear in pretty much any font the designer chooses. (A clumsy Flash-based technique called sIFR made it possible to use different fonts for headings, though not body text.) In fact, if you’re using a recent version of Safari, and are viewing this on the web, this sentence will appear in Gentium Basic.

Unfortunately, the license agreement for almost every high-quality font prevents them from being redistributed, and therefore from being used on web pages in this way. However, there are a few exceptions:

An article on A List Apart describes how to create web pages with embeddable fonts; here’s CSS files for Gentium, Liberation and Vera.

For some reason quite a few browsers seem to be erroneously downloading these fonts: only Safari supports embedded fonts at this point, but the server log files indicate the clients with IE 6.0 and IE 7.0 user agents are downloading them as well. Does anyone know why this is happening? Are they indiscriminately downloading all url() links?

[On a separate note, the reason why the SIL are interested in fonts is somewhat interesting: they’re an evangelical Christian organisation with a focus on unwritten languages. (I’m guessing their ultimate aim is to expose as many people as possible to the Bible, though their academic linguistic work seems reasonably separate from their missionary activities, and their work is respected in academic circles.)]