For typography geeks, the Web is a depressingly drab place. Just look around the page you’re reading now: There are only a couple of fonts, Arial and Verdana, used to display most of the text. That would be fine, except that they’re the same two fonts you find everywhere else on the Web. Don’t blame Slate’s design team for the shortfall; blame the people who build Web browsers, the Web’s standards bodies, and the companies that sell fonts. The strange reality of the Web is that it’s harder to display a novel font than it is to embed a video. In this realm, at least, print media are still way ahead. Flip open your favorite glossy magazine and behold the typographic bounty—the text sizes that range from the microscopic to the gargantuan, the huge variety of font weights and styles, and the thrillingly large universe of different typefaces. Compared with the typical issue of Cosmo, Slate and every other online magazine look like something out of the 1800s.
Typeface designers and font fanciers have new reason for optimism though. The past year has seen a surge of Web-browser innovation. Now, most major browsers—including the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera—recognize a CSS rule known as @font-face. What that means, in brief, is that Web developers can now easily embed downloadable fonts in their pages. To see an example, load up Firefox 3.5 or Safari 4 and check out this site. You’ll see three new typefaces—Liza, Auto, and Dolly—used in the body text and headlines. If you don’t have one of those browsers, you can check out the screenshots below.
If you didn’t jump out of your chair and run around the block, you’re probably not that into typography. But trust me—that page is revolutionary.
(Hat tip: Yorgos)