TypeKit launches, hopes to save typography on the Web

typekitWeb designers, rejoice! Typekit, the project of noted designer Jeffrey Veen and Small Batch, launched today. Typekit offers web designers a way to use a wide array of fonts on their websites. Most websites today limit their use of fonts to those available on all three of the major operating systems – Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. There are only a dozen of those, Verdana and Arial come to mind. Investors such as Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg think Veen and his team at Small Batch have the solution.

Typekit lets users choose the fonts they want to use (the number of fonts per site depends on the price plan chosen) and embed them using the web standards compliant @font-face CSS declaration and a bit of Javascript. The Javascript is used to include the CSS and to optimize the performance of Typekit. While @font-face been around for quite some time, most browsers didn’t support it. With the latest editions of Internet explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome and Opera supporting @font-face, Typekit will work in most modern browsers. Unlike past solutions such as sIFR that worked as image replacement for rendering fonts, Typekit  uses the @font-face declaration to link directly to font files. No Flash needed.

The other issue for web designers wanting to embed fonts into their websites was that they had to buy the fonts they wanted to use. Users who opt in for one of Typekit’s plans, get access to either the personal of full library, with hundreds of fonts included. The fonts in the libraries have been licensed for use on the web from the font foundries. While the ease of use will let even the novice web designer try out the service, one potential issue does come to mind. Fonts hosted on a third-party serves, like any “cloud” service, can go down. In other words, while Typekit makes it easier to use fancy fonts, web designers will still have to make their designs look good even with the standard few such as Verdana.

While some hail Typekit as “the best thing to happen to web design since the re-emergence of browser competitiveness” , skeptics have noted issues like downtime could cripple Typekit. But, potential outages aside, the service looks like a good, needed solution to the issue of typography on the web. With today’s public launch, you can now decide for yourself.