Recently, everybody seems to be talking about Lobster. Not the crustaceans from the ocean, but the Web Font. For those who haven’t heard of it, Lobster is a good example of a popular Google Font that is embedded into web pages.
Embedding fonts is not as new as you might think. Way back in 1998, CSS 2 introduced the @font-face rule. This, in theory, enabled designers to download any TrueType or PostScript font to a users computer for display in web pages. Unfortunately, at the time, only Internet Explorer 4 supported the rule. There was widespread fear that fonts that were expensive to licence would be pirated. Today, CSS 3 still doesn’t help with the piracy issue, but all web browsers support the rule. Screen resolutions have improved dramatically since that time too. So, if you haven’t embraced font embedding yet, now is the time to do so.
Current Web Font Options
Before we talk about using web fonts in WordPress, let’s take a step back and look at fonts on the web in general.
The most basic level of support for fonts comes from the operating system that the user is using. This may offer dozens of fonts for a desktop or laptop system to only three fonts on Android.
Unfortunately, this remains a fairly pot luck system. We’re all aware of how poorly Helvetica looks on Windows-based machines when set at 16px and below, and that Arial can look less than fantastic on some older versions of OS X.
Many of these discrepancies have come about because the original Apple Mac operating system was tied to old printing press technology of 72 points per inch. 10 point fonts were thus allocated 10 pixels on the display. At the time, Apple offered vertical (portrait) monitors that were the same size as standard American paper, and a direct one-to-one comparison could be made from the screen to a printed version. Microsoft on the other hand, chose 96 PPI on the basis people would be sitting an additional 1/3 of the distance away from a computer monitor than they would from a printed page. Thus everything was rendered 1/3 larger on a Windows-based computer.
Things have come a long way since the 1990s when these technologies emerged, and we now have a myriad of different screen sizes and resolutions to deal with. Yet, unless you specify a font, the users’ device and browser will still make the choice of font for you.
Another issue is that some organisations limit the fonts on users computers. I once worked at an organisation whose computers only had Georgia and Verdana installed. This was so that letters and emails sent by employees could only be sent using a font that matched the corporate identity.
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