Will EOT Become the Standard for Font Embedding?

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Will EOT Become the Standard for Font Embedding?If you’re at all familiar with the various methods in use today to embed custom fonts in web pages (sIFR, Cufon, @font-face, etc), then you also may have heard of a font format called EOT. Well, if Microsoft has it their way, EOT will become the standard, allowing web developers — with permission from font vendors — to be free to use virtually any font in a text-friendly manner in their web pages.

So what is EOT, and how has Microsoft pushed to standardize this method? Embedded OpenType fonts are compact OpenType fonts designed by Microsoft for use as embedded web fonts. They are recognizable by their “.eot” file extension. By means of data compression and removal of superfluous data, EOT files are made small in size and include features that protect the fonts themselves from being copied and used in unauthorized ways.

Currently, the only browser that supports EOT is, naturally, Internet Explorer. If you’ve never used @font-face before in a CSS file, I’ll explain how it’s done. First, the custom font you want is given a custom name (whatever name you choose) and the font’s source file is referenced, as shown below:

@font-face {
	font-family: "My Custom Font";
	src: url("../fonts/custom-font.eot");

The above code simply serves to declare the custom font. After the font is declared, using the custom name chosen as the value of font-family, the font is applied to an element:

p {
	font-family: "My Custom Font", Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;

You’ll notice in the example above, I’ve also included fall-back font options in the font stack, which is common in CSS development. In this case it ensures that a secondary custom font appears if the user’s browser fails to support @font-face and the EOT format.

Microsoft has also produced a utility called WEFT (Web Embedding Fonts Tool) that allows generation of embeddable web fonts. This utility analyzes a web page and converts chosen fonts to EOT format for embedding using @font-face.

Microsoft has endeavored to have this proprietary format become a standard. On March 18, 2008 they submitted a request for EOT to become a W3C specification. The request’s abstract states: “The Embedded Font Format (EOT) was developed by Microsoft to enable OpenType fonts to be linked to web pages for download to render the web page with the font the author desired. This appendix specifies the format of the .EOT file so that User Agents can download, extract and temporarily install fonts of the .EOT file suffix that are included in the @font-face definition of a CSS style sheet.”

Has the W3C provided a response to this request? In part, yes. On the comments page for the request, the following statement is made: “W3C plans to submit a proposal to the W3C members for a working group whose goal is to try and develop EOT into a W3C Recommendation.”

Since the CSS @font-face rule is gaining more acceptance in browser versions (albeit in different ways), it seems that the future of custom font embedding could depend on what the final decision is on the request by Microsoft that EOT becomes a W3C specification.

5 Responses

  1. Zach:

    I wouldn’t mind using eot’s over .otf or .ttf, but I won’t touch ‘em until firefox and safari come around to the idea, with or without the blessing of the W3C.

  2. Rob:

    As stated above, no browser supports the .eot format but IE so why bother? All the other browsers support the other format and IE is a dying browser so there’s no way anyone should bother with .eot.

  3. EOT sucks – has anyone actually tried to use WEFT to create a font for IE to use? It’s a pain at best. Microsoft need to come up with a better (and free of course) way for people to create their stupid format before anyone will use it, whether it’s a W3 recommendation or not.

  4. I won’t mind too much whether .eot becomes the standard or if its another format altogether. The important thing for me is just that one format does become the clear leader so we can stop having to embed 3 different ones!

    With that said, an open format would be a lot more appealing than a proprietary one!

  5. Joe:

    Can’t stand tff. I hope EOT becomes the standard.

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