New Web Font Services Expand Choices


In my previous post on using real fonts on the web, I highlighted a few web font service bureaus. These services seem to be proliferating like rabbits, and in this post I'll mention a few more.

Extensis WebINK

You may know Extensis from its Suitcase font-management software. The company now has a web font service, WebINK, that is currently in public beta.

WebINK has a great interactive interface that allows you to preview any font, using either their sample text or any text that you enter. You can also adjust the type size, leading, and character spacing in the preview.

You pick your fonts and add them to a "type drawer." Then you specify what domains should be allowed to access the fonts, choose a pricing plan (price varies based on the number of accesses per month and the typefaces you choose), and the site provides the CSS that you include in your stylesheet.

Unlike some of the other web font service bureaus, WebINK does not depend on JavaScript; you simply point the @font-face definition to the URL that WebINK provices, and the service automatically provides the font in the appropriate format for whatever browser is accessing it. You then use the font-family name in your styles, just as you would for a web-safe font.

We were particularly excited to see that Darden Studio is one of the foundries offering its fonts through WebINK. The Omnes font that we use in our logo and for our headlines is a Darden font, and we have been using Cufon to render our headlines. In less than 30 minutes, I created a WebINK account, set up a type drawer with the Omnes font, inserted the CSS in our stylesheet, and removed all the Cufon code. The site looks just the same, but we no longer have JavaScript messing with the type.

You can use as many fonts as you'd like for up to 30 days as a free trial., operated by Monotype Imaging, has a webfonts service in private beta.

The service will be of particular interest because of the library of more than 7,000 fonts it will offer, from big-name, traditional foundries such as Linotype, Monotype, and ITC. Most of the other web font service bureaus have fonts from smaller foundries; while there are lots of great fonts from smaller foundries, if you want traditional fonts such as Helvetica, Frutiger, and Univers, will be the only source. uses a JavaScript technique that completely bypasses your stylesheets, much like Typekit. You set up the class names that you want to style in the interface, specifying the font name for each class. Then you put just a single line of JavaScript into your web page to apply the fonts. You can also refer to the font by name in your stylesheets.


Webtype is another web font service bureau. It is a partnership between The Font Bureau, Ascender Corp, Roger Black, Petr van Blokland, and DevBridge. Fonts come from The Font Bureau, Ascender, Microsoft, and Monotype.

Webtype uses the same approach as Fontdeck and Kernest, described in my previous post. After choosing your fonts on the Webtype site, it provides you with a link to a stylesheet, which you link into your pages like any other stylesheet. Then you can reference the fonts by name in your CSS rules.

A New Pricing Model for Fonts

Along with this new technology approach of fonts as a service comes a new pricing model. Instead of having to purchase fonts, you essentially are renting them. You're getting not just the use of the font, but also the system that delivers the font files and takes care of providing the variety of formats needed by different browsers.

In the short term, especially for low-traffic sites, the new model is dramatically less expensive. You can get quality fonts, including Omnes, from WebINK for as little as $1.99/month (for 1 GByte/month of font bandwidth), or $5.99/month for 3 Gbytes/month. A desktop license for Omnes Pro, by comparison, is $229.

On the other hand, since the pricing models are traffic-based, if you have a high-traffic site the web service bureaus can be significantly more expensive than purchasing a font outright. For 80 GBytes/month, you'll pay $39.99/month, or about $480 per year. You are getting quite a bit of bandwidth in the bargain that you would otherwise have to pay for at your primary web host, but these prices are far higher than generic bandwidth costs. Since many typefaces aren't licensed for use on web sites through other means, however, you may be stuck if you really want a particular font.

With a service bureau, you keep paying year after year. In the long term, using a service bureau may be dramatically more expensive than purchasing fonts (if you have that option). For a site with 600,000 visitors per month, for example, Webtype fonts typically cost $105 to $140 per year—and that is for each weight and style of the font. If you need regular, bold, italic, and bold italic, you could be paying $560 per year for a single typeface.

Typekit, in contrast, does not charge per font weight or style; or even per typeface; you get all the fonts you want for $99.99/year for up to 1,000,000 pageviews per month.

Another variable is the number of web sites on which you can use the fonts. Some services allow you to specify as many domains as you'd like; others price per domain, or allow a limited number of domains. This makes comparing costs especially tricky if you are working with multiple sites.

We are in the very early days of web fonts and web font service bureaus, and it will take time for the pricing models to settle down. This will be a very competitive market. Owners of the highest-quality fonts will no doubt be able to charge a premium, just as they have been able to do for one-time font sales, but relatively standardized pricing is likely to emerge as the market matures.

See our resources page for more on web typography.

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