Web fonts (loadable, linkable, or embedded): beyond the "safe" 10

As far as I can tell from the resources below and from my own tests, Safari (3.1.2+), Firefox (since 3.1beta), and Opera 10 (planned), support web font formats TrueType/OpenType TT (.ttf), and OpenType PS (.otf) , while IE7 only supports Microsoft's own Embedded OpenType (EOT), and IE8 does not seem to do even that (yet).

It is harder to find a more complicated and passionately discussed topic on the entire internet than web fonts and the pros and cons of EOT vs TTF and OTF.

Note concerning existing freeware/shareware fonts in TrueType and OpenType formats:

  • There is a prototype facility for making an EOT file from other formats, so in principle you can provide one font for Firefox, Safari and Opera, and another similar one for (you guessed it, out there on their own again) IE.
  • The Firefox PDMS WEFT Plugin (Windows only) 'Provides seamless integration of EOT fonts in FireFox and other Mozilla based browsers.'
  • There are barely any of 'decent quality' that meet font standards and can be converted properly to EOT format.

So who will win the battle of the web fonts ? Or will there be a truce ? From Adobe, Web fonts and EOT:

"Adobe is strongly supportive of the effort to make Microsoft’s EOT web font format an open standard. Indeed, Adobe pays for Steve Zilles’ time, and he will be chairing the EOT standardization effort, should the W3C accept the proposal in principle. We will be updating our licensing FAQ to make it clear that our existing font license terms allow EOT usage, and do not allow linking to original fonts placed on web servers.

Why do we support EOT? Our surveys of web designers and font developers have made it clear to us that users want an HTML/CSS font solution that allows them to use any font they want, and most of them would like to do so legally. In particular, they want to be able to use regular retail and OS-bundled fonts. With original fonts on web servers, hardly any retail or commonly-used fonts could legally be used; only freeware and open source fonts, some shareware, and a handful of retail fonts."

(by Thomas Phinney 01 Sep 2008)

That's quite a powerful statement from the influential font-rich organisation Adobe, backed by Microsoft, so no matter what you think about linking to OpenType or TrueType on servers (or about Microsoft in general), there is a good chance EOT will be supported too long term. So we have to wait and just find out.

In any case, if you use CSS font style stacks your site can gracefully degrade to use one of the "safe" web fonts anyway.