18Oct

Why Adobe Acquired Typekit?

This month has been a highly dramatic one in the technological community, filled with both sad and exciting news. On the one hand, the death of Steve Jobs has sent ripples of sorrow, mourning and reflection across online news and social media sites. On the other hand, Adobe’s acquisition of Typekit, the celebrated and popular web font provider, has generated much excitement for web developers. Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch announced the merger at the recent 2011 MAX conference. This article discusses the acquisition of this latest business deal and what effects it is likely to have on the industry.

When Typekit emerged on the scene as a small start-up in 2008, it was one of the first services focused on web font and typography. At a time when few were concerned with the problem of cross-platform, cross-browser compatibility for a wide range of typefaces, Jeff Veen had the vision and the drive to found Typekit to address precisely these issues. It was around this same time that browsers began supporting the @font-face feature and WOFF (Web Open Font Format) began to gain popularity, both of which led to a rise in new web font foundries similar to Typekit, such as Fontdeck, WebINK and Fonts.com. Typekit, however, ultimately emerged as the leader in this new niche industry centered on the beautification and diversification of web typography, attracting influential clientele such as The New York Times; Conde Nast, and IGN.

Why Typekit?

When there are so many alternative web font providers that have sprung up since Typekit’s inception, some of which, like Fonts.com, offer over 12,000 web fonts and support over 40 languages, one may wonder: what makes Typekit the dominant force in this area and why did it specifically attract the attention of Adobe? Well, there are a multitude of reasons for its frontrunner status:

1. Timing – Typekit was the first company to really zero-in on the market of web typography, with the goal of helping developers to make their content more eye-catching.

2. Moving Forward – There are a number of technical issues with web font/browser compatibility that continue to make the task of developing attractive, multi-platform fonts a challenge. Typekit has a dedicated staff that continues to innovate and develop new ways to make beautiful typefaces available across all platforms – something that has become increasingly important in this age of tablet and Smartphone domination.

3. Type Rendering – Print fonts often appear very differently in web browsers due to the usage of a wide array of different rendering engines. Additionally, different operating systems come with their own type-rendering engines, adding another layer of complexity to achieving a uniform appearance of a particular typeface in many different systems. Typekit was interested from the start in solving this problem by including expert type technicians in its team to carry out research on font rendering across different browsers and operating systems to come up with the best possible solutions.

4. Ease-of-use – Typekit has a strong focus on providing a user-friendly service. By aggregating and licensing fonts from many different foundries and consolidating them in one place, they provide a high-quality service that is extremely simple to use, whether you are an individual or a multinational corporation. They offer a Typekit API for developers, as well as Speakeasy, open source language tool and service to check the current status of Typekit’s font network, website, and API. Also, there is a WordPress plug-in which enables users to change the fonts of their sites with very little time and effort using the Typekit service.

5. Willingness to Help Competitors – Typekit is not overly confrontational or competitive when it comes to dealing with their industry peers. On the contrary, they have been known to aid competitors for the betterment of font services for everyone. For example, to help Google launch its own new web font API, Typekit worked with them to make some of their important code open-source; then they distributed it together.

6. Team Dedication – When he started the company, Veen was lucky enough to choose the professionals who would work with him, and he chose experienced people from companies like Google and Yahoo who had been dealing with their customers’ web font issues for years, and were thus well-equipped for and dedicated to solving this problem.

7. Goal-oriented Focus – Typekit was founded with three goals in mind: First, to offer a high quality service, which it has done by working harder with existing font foundries to ensure that each font looks the same on each browser and system using advanced rendering and hinting features; Second, to improve its workflow and efficiency, which it has done consistently and successfully from the start; and Third, to spread Typekit everywhere on the Internet, which it has achieved with tremendous success. With over 250,000 customers and an enormous and ever-increasing font library, it is well on its way to achieving total ubiquity in the online world.

Why Adobe?

Over 15 years ago, Adobe was the frontrunner in the industry, working to jointly develop OpenType with Microsoft, which had the goal of ensuring cross-platform compatibility (so that the same fonts would work well on both Macintosh and Windows computers). OpenType also supported widely-expanded character sets and layout features, which provided richer linguistic support and advanced typographic control. Additionally, Adobe has been working with a number of foundries and type designers to design and develop hundreds of fonts in different languages to include them in their programs. Adobe also has a lot of in-depth experience with type rendering, which is one of the main aspects of working with web fonts. So perhaps it is no surprise that Adobe has come full-circle to round out its web typography portfolio with the acquisition of a fully functional and popular service such as Typekit.

What we can expect from Adobe?

Obviously, Adobe has extensive plans to expand and improve Typekit. Here is a list of some things we can likely expect to see from Adobe in the near future:

• Widespread support for web-font standards like EOF and WOFF.
• Improved rendering process to include thousands of new fonts.
• Development of applications to make the hinting process easier for designers and developers.
• Distribution of other foundries’ typefaces.
• Adobe Cloud Service will provide a more pervasive way to use fonts.
• Integration of Typekit into other Adobe products.
• Greater coordination with other type design foundries.
• Expansion of language support to include languages like Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Hebrew, and others.
• More support for browsers and applications on mobile phones and tablets.
• Changes and improvements in price plan and quality of service.

Conclusion

This merger will renew the spirit of competition between web font providers and may even lead to the genesis of even more startups in the coming months or further mergers and acquisitions of other companies in the industry. One major obstacle to be faced by Adobe and these other companies will likely be Google web fonts. Unlike the others mentioned, which are paid services, Google web fonts is free. While it currently only offers a few hundred fonts in multiple languages, Google almost certainly plans to extend this service to include more fonts in more languages. All Google needs is some time to become a major player in the widening world of web typography. It is only a matter of time now before we will see an answer to the question: “How will Adobe and other web font providers respond to the looming Google problem?”

Let us to know what do you think about Adobe’s acquisition of Typekit?

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    One Response to “Why Adobe Acquired Typekit?”

    1. Hope the changes are for the better. I always get this eerie feeling that once big companies buy a consolidated product/service it makes everything go downhill from there on.