A New Web Font Service That's For Real - Kernest

Richard Fink's picture

Through a twitter by Ralf Herrmann, I got wind of a new web font service by developer Garrick Van Buren.
Got a sneak peak at it, and it's for real. A nice job of it, too.
Focuses on free fonts, of course.
For those looking to tap into the web market when the file format issues finally get worked out (I'm an optimist, it's a failing, I know), Kernest is slated for public release on the 16th of July and you'll be able to check out your "free" competition.
I'll be taking a close look.

A Web Font Service For Real, A Sneak Peek At Kernest

Stephen Coles's picture

From what I've read on his site, he doesn't seem to have a deep enough understanding of type design to grasp the licensing/IP issues involved.

Richard Fink's picture

@stephen coles
>From what I’ve read on his site, he doesn’t seem to have a >deep enough understanding of type design to grasp the >licensing/IP issues involved.

Say what? Type design is type design. Licensing/IP issues are quite separate and apart from that. Two different fields of knowledge.
One of the problems I've run into personally, is that it sometimes seems as if I have to be both a mind-reader because I can't even find the EULA for a font, and when I do, I need a lawyer to understand it. (Bad sentence, that's two problems, isn't it?)
Anyway, as someone who's done a lot of: download, test, download, test, download, test; of many fonts with "open" licenses, what I am licensed to do or not do is easy to grasp.
When it comes to retail fonts, if the licensing issues are such that only an "expert" can understand them, then everybody loses. And, IMHO, it fosters non-licensed use.

BTW - Garrick Van Buren of Kernest has consented to an interview to be published on Readable Web shortly. I'll make sure he's questioned about your concerns, as I understand them to be.



aluminum's picture

Umm, yea, what Richard said. Type design and foundry licensing issues are really separate things.

Garrick has been talking to a lot of type designers. While I can't speak for him, I think he understands the concerns of a chunk of the industry. That said, that's no reason to stop the technology that's available from going forward.

Alas, it's the same old issue/debate. The legal system and web technology are really two different realms.

Garrick Van Buren's picture


I'd like to echo Richard Fink's point that existing font licenses aren't as easy to understand as they need to be - nor are all fonts licensed in the same way.

Many existing licenses support @font-face. Others don't.

Kernest is only interested in offering the fonts that do.


Richard Fink's picture

Good. Thank you Ray and Garrick.

@stephen coles
A part of what Garrick has done with Kernest is simply to take those fonts that are available for web use with @font-face and collate them, organize them, and categorize them. Along with the source of each font and it's licensing information.
Bone simple grunt work.
All of this stuff was out there for the taking by anybody. Kernest just brings it all together and then also gives you the ability to preview the font "live in your browser" and, if you find it convenient, use the font in your web pages via a link to Kernest's server.

There are others who have announced that they, too, will be competing in this new "font services" arena.

In this way, we are seeing, for the first time, a real-world hashing out of how @font-face works and how these fonts look and behave in different browsers.

If there is anything to fear, it's that there are quite a lot of "free" fonts. And they might look a little too good for comfort!

But soon, anybody with a browser can see for themselves, with their own eyes.
Without knowing a lick of HTML or CSS.
Now, that's progress, no?

k.l.'s picture


"From what I’ve read on his site, he doesn’t seem to have a deep enough understanding of type design to grasp the licensing/IP issues involved."

that there's some hype and investors around TypeKit, does not imply that they have this understanding of type and licensing. Whether they have or not -- they have their own interests for running such a business which may or may not coincide with type designers' or foundries' interests.

There's very telling wording on their blog:

"As a Typekit user, you’ll have access to our library of high-quality fonts."

This indicates: They offer an infrastructure service around font access/licensing. For this to be of any value they need your and others' "content" or "commodities" -- typefaces. And they consider these typefaces already as "our library". (Imagine the Monotype or Linotype machine without any typeface available.)

An additional remark:
The amazing thing is that such a business model can exist only because some browser developers have an aversion against supporting EOT as only allowed format for @font-face.* If they would do, font embedding/linking were pretty straightforward and relatively safe, without need for additional "services".

* Like Mozilla's John Daggett on the www-font list says,
"Obfuscated/compression schemes are fine but not if it implies that we make things harder rather than easier for some users."
Well. What, other than that, would TypeKit do?


aluminum's picture

Just to clarify, Kernest and Typekit are two different projects.

Garrick Van Buren's picture

Karsten - Handling compatibility issues between browsers is just one of the many opportunities for a fonts-as-a-web-service business.


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