Web typography refers to the use of fonts on the World Wide Web. When HTML was first created, font faces and styles were controlled exclusively by the settings of each Web browser. There was no mechanism for individual Web pages to control font display until Netscape introduced the
<font> tag in 1995, which was then standardized in the HTML 2 specification. However, the font specified by the tag had to be installed on the user’s computer or a fallback font, such as a browser’s default sans-serif ormonospace font, would be used. The first Cascading Style Sheets specification was published in 1996 and provided the same capabilities.
The CSS2 specification was released in 1998 and attempted to improve the font selection process by adding font matching, synthesis and download. These techniques did not gain much use, and were removed in the CSS2.1 specification. However,Internet Explorer added support for the font downloading feature in version 4.0, released in 1997. Font downloading was later included in the CSS3 fonts module, and has since been implemented in Safari 3.1, Opera 10 and Mozilla Firefox 3.5. This has subsequently increased interest in Web typography, as well as the usage of font downloading.
To ensure that all Web users had a basic set of fonts, Microsoft started the Core fonts for the Web initiative in 1996 (terminated in 2002). Released fonts include Arial, Courier New, Times New Roman, Comic Sans, Impact, Georgia, Trebuchet, Webdings andVerdana—under an EULA that made them freely distributable but also limited some usage rights. Their high penetration rate has made them a staple for Web designers. However, some operating systems don’t include these fonts by default.
CSS2 attempted to increase the tools available to Web developers by adding font synthesis, improved font matching and the ability to download remote fonts.
Some CSS2 font properties were removed from CSS2.1 and later included in CSS3.
Web-safe fonts are fonts likely to be present on a wide range of computer systems, and used by Web content authors to increase the likelihood that content displayes in their chosen font. If a visitor to a Web site does not have the specified font, their browser tries to select a similar alternative, based on the author-specified fallback fonts and generic families or it uses font substitution defined in the visitor’s operating system.