There are five reasons why embedding fonts into your web page using the @font-face command that is intended for the purpose is not a good idea.
- Firstly, not all browsers currently support it. At the time of writing this the Google Chrome web browser and mobile versions of Safari do not have support for embedding fonts. This may eventually be rectified but as the CSS3 standard that @font-face is a part of is still only a draft there is still no guarantee that it will ever be supported by all browsers (especially in view of the other issues with usung it).
- Not all browsers that do support embedding fonts support the same font formats. Internet Explorer which was the first to adopt tfont embedding only supports EOT fonts while the actual standard specifies that fonts to be embedded should be in WOFF format. Most of the browsers that support embedding fonts (apart from IE) do support the WOFF format with their latest browser version at the time of writing. In some cases they also support TTF and/or OTF format fonts and in a few cases those formats are supported by older versions of the browser that don't support WOFF. With so many different formats to choose from how do you get browsers to pick one they can use? In some cases browsers will end up downloading multiple copies of the same font in different formats in order to ensure that the format they can actually use is downloaded.
- Another problem is where your visitor already has the embedded font installed on their computer. While some browsers are clever enough to realise that the font is already there and doesn't need downloading, other browsers will just proceed to download the font regardless of whether it is necessary or not and will therefore slow the loading of the page.
- Being able to download fonts at all depends on the security settings in the browser. A number of your visitors will have security set in such a way that instead of the font downloading automatically they instead get an alert that the web page is trying to download a font. While this gives them the option to not download the font in order to get the page to load faster it still isn't ideal.
- There are very few fonts that are allowed to be freely distributed. Most fonts are licenced for use on a specific computer and may not be legally copied to other computers. Usually the fonts that you have on your computer that came with a given piece of software were licenced to be distributed with that software and may not be distributed separately. That's why the OET and WOFF formats for web use were created since the program that converts fonts to one of those formats will only allow the conversion for fonts where web use is allowed. That's also a good reason to not use TTF or OTF fonts on the web since 99% of the time doing so is theft of the font. With those fonts that are available for web use the amount of work that has gone into checking that the font will work properly is probably somewhat less than for other fonts where the font creator is getting paid for their work.
Given all of these disadvantages relating to browsers where the font will not be seen at all, browsers where the web page will take forever to download because of the multiple copies of the font that it downloads even though the font is already installed, and the limited range of fonts that can be legally embedded, there are very few situations where embedding a font into your web page will be worthwhile. In most cases you'll be better off just listing the font for people who have it to use and list alternative similar fonts for everyone else.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.