Verdana and Georgia harder to get
Over the weekend Slashdot had an item about Microsoft ending public availability of its “TrueType core fonts for the Web.” In other words, Verdana and Georgia can no longer be downloaded from Microsoft’s site. Probably a majority of personal computers do have these fonts installed, and I’m sure the fonts will remain in downloads of Internet Explorer for Windows and Macintosh, but the fact that those fonts are no longer available separately is bad news.
Georgia and Verdana (the font your browser will use to display this site if you have it installed) are two typefaces designed specifically for reading on computer screens, which have much lower resolution than a printed page. Giving fonts like that a wide distribution and making reading easier for everyone is definitely in the interest of site developers and site visitors, but apparently not in the interest of Microsoft. That’s contrary to their earlier stated intentions: “[t]he whole point is to make them available to as many users as possible” (thanks to Adrian Holovaty for that link).
Having fonts designed for easy reading onscreen will also be critical for the success of so-called “tablet” PCs, which Microsoft is pushing heavily. I am actually a huge fan of the tablet PC concept. I think it would be great to be able to browse the Web in bed or read an online newspaper at the breakfast table via a lightweight device with a decent size screen and wireless networking. It’s just a shame that the fonts to make that happen will probably now be proprietary to Microsoft’s tablet devices.
Designing good fonts is hardly an undertaking for amateurs, but someone else should get to work making some more good onscreen typefaces. Verdana and Georgia are almost overused anyway (although probably not when compared to Times New Roman).