When created in 1990, HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) contained no way to style or call a particular font. Fonts were controlled exclusively by a web browser’s preferences.
In 1995, Netscape Communications Corporation introduced the inline tag that would allow display and styling of a font, as long as that font was installed on the user’s computer. A generic set of fonts that were commonly installed on computers were considered “web safe.” These fonts were Arial, Comic Sans, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Verdana and Webdings.
In 1996, CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) was introduced and allowed web designers to set a font’s look and feel within a single, separate document. Still, fonts meant to display within a web-based document either had be installed on the user’s computer or be an image of text. Images of text caused issues in that updating images of text could be time consuming and too many of these would add to the load time of a page (neither good).
In 1998, CSS2 began to use font downloading, where remote fonts could be accessed and displayed without having to be installed on a user’s computer system, but this was not widely by adopted by the browsers in use at the time and by CSS2.1, font downloading was pretty much abandoned.
Today, CSS3 and modern web browsers allow the majority of web users access to an ever growing number of fonts and font icons. This relatively new ability allows web designers to create expressive pages that better suit a client’s tone and brand while making the pages faster to load and easier for search engines to read.
Web Font Samples
Sample fonts above are just a few of the 642 font families currently available at Google Fonts.
Web Font Icon Samples
Sample icons shown above are just a few of the 249 available at Font Awesome.