Why do this? Isn’t this just @font-face? Yep it is just @font-face, which you can do yourself without Google’s help. But there are advantages:
- Bandwidth savings (weight is on Google)
- Caching speed (same font used on multiple sites, browser cache kicks in)
- Speed in general (Google’s CDN is faster than your site)
Loading the extra CSS file is an extra HTTP Request though, but you could hotlink the font file instead. You may also want to download the font and create your own SVG version, because the Google stylesheets aren’t serving that up, and hence no support for iPhone/iPad.
Raph Levien is a type designer, and creator of the Inconsolata font. Raph also works on the Google Font API team. I caught up with him to ask him a few questions about all this…
Raph: It’s all about making the web faster and richer for everybody. We’re not collecting any personal information for web font requests, and only aggregating the logs at a coarse level so we can keep track of performance and overall popularity of fonts.
One of the great things about this service, just like the AJAX libraries (such as our WebFont Loader), is that many different sites can link the fonts, and they’ll all share the browser cache – it’ll only trigger a network download for the first one.
*Chris: Should the worst happen, and the font API were to have a bit of downtime, what happens to sites using these fonts? Will the browser follow the font stack down and pick a fallback, or does something else happen?
*Chris: It is pretty interesting to see a collaboration between your team and TypeKit. How that that come about?
Raph: TypeKit has been been blazing the trail to make web fonts available to a wide audience. We’ve known the team for a while (Jeff Veen used to work at Google, in fact), so it was natural to talk to them about what we’re doing. We think our collection of open source fonts is pretty good, but for a broader range of professionally designed fonts, we want to make it easy for people to upgrade. We’ve also been working with other major font vendors, including Ascender.
*Chris: A lot of free / open source fonts serve their creators as an advertisement for a more robust set of fonts that isn’t free. Do you see that as a hurdle for the Google Font Directory, in that could become a repository of intentionally limited fonts? Or will that kind of thing be curated out?
Raph: We’ve been getting a great response so far. People have all kinds of reasons for contributing open source fonts, and one is definitely to create more visibility and traffic for selling proprietary fonts. A lot of people just love creating fonts. Whatever the reasons, I’m confident we’ll see a nice, steady stream of high quality fonts. But there’ll always be more choice of top-quality fonts from professional foundries.
Thanks to Raph for the quick interview! Let me know what ya’ll think of this. I’m thinking it’s a pretty big win for web fonts, although I think (and hope, really) that all the best fonts will remain on paid services like TypeKit. Web fonts still have a way to come. Clearly there are still some problems on Windows, and if it’s not one thing, it’s another.