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Zeldman, as usual, puts his finger on the problem. And the following comments are equally insightful. Here’s what I am taking away from this conversation:
* 1. Web fonts are great, but watch out for Windows.
2. We need to test fonts first on as many browser/OS combinations before putting them on a site.
2a. It would be great if Typekit or the foundries would show screen grabs in different situations.
3. We need different fonts for IE (EOT) . Fonts (EOT or, soon, WOFF) for Firefox, Chrome or Safari on the PC need different hints than on the Mac. And soon we will get phone browsers. But even if everyone agreed on a single format, we will have years before the trail of IE users catches up. The only way I have heard to sort this out is to be very careful with the CSS—-and use a script on the font server. This a bad thing? Server scripts sniff out platforms and sizes to deliver the appropriate ads and video files all over the web. Does that conflict with web standards? Or is it actually an artifact of the increasing diversity of clients made possible by web standards?
4. Font sizes below 20 px (I would say 30 px) are risky, unless there is specific hinting.
5. We have to pay attention to the design of a font. The outline of Verdana, unhinted, works better than, say, Helvetica at small sizes on the screen.
After 14 years of being confined to system fonts, the arrival of web fonts this year was a great relief. But there were two big surprises for me. The first was how out of touch I had become with the rendering quality of Windows. Since I quit PCs in the late 80s, I guess I just assumed they had kept up. When I used a PC, it was always with system fonts or PDFs, where Adobe took over the rendering with its lovely font smoothing. David Berlow had been crying in the wilderness about the lack of absolute size on PCs, on how fonts render lighter on PCs, on how ClearType may be an improvement and DirectWrite may be better, but they’re far from perfect.
Never mind such details like how heading tags will add fake bold to a bold font if you don’t watch out.
The other surprise was how many hard-core web developers were surprised, too. It took so long to get reasonably good, reasonably similar result with standard HTML across browsers, that they may have declared “Mission Accomplished” too soon. Whether or not they actually use web fonts, everyone is now forced to take a look at font rendering in a serious way. Thank you, Jeffrey.