1. As I contemplate their new website and the very nicely-made specimen for Space Mono I got in my Typographics swag pile, it strikes me that Google very much wants to position itself as a font distributor à la Monotype, which is to say as interested in print applications as in the web—and maybe even selling bespoke/non-retail designs, and taking commissions for interface design?
2. On a related note: how long until Google challenges Adobe's essential monopoly on professional design software?
As for intention: Rob reinforced Google's line that their purpose is to encourage webfont use so the web is faster and more accessible (indexable). But at some point, as webfonts become more and more prevalent, you have to wonder if the main goal shifts to enhancing Google's own products, just as Typekit does for Adobe.
I asked if achieving the first goal required that Google pushes users to their own fonts or if maybe they could also use their very popular (and improved) directory to link to other webfont providers, especially the font makers themselves, further promoting webfont use while demonstrating Google's desire to be a good citizen in the type community. Rob agreed that was possible. Currently, only Fonts.com gets this treatment.
Another change: they appear to be pulling back from the quantity-over-quality MO and will focus on better type that solves specific needs, while continuing their push for more non-Latin designs. They are also investing in improving existing fonts in their library and will stop listing the worst ones.
You were then asked to rsvp via Eventbrite. Seats were limited and quickly sold out. I also can’t blame any “font maker” that they did not drop everything and signed up based on this nondescript invite. There were many things going on at the same time, like Type Lab presentation which were maybe more relevant to some type designers, or they had other lunch plans.
Regarding the lunch, I also got the invite email at 4:45PM on June 17 without any further information, and didn’t attend. I figured it was going to be a user sales pitch that I didn’t need to hear. I met Rob Giampietro at another occasion, and got away with about the same information as relayed in this thread by @Stephen Coles. I inquired if they had thought about creating something like the FontFont TypeBoard to ensure quality and originality of future releases, and he said that might be something they would think about in the future.
Of course, none of it is nearly as lucrative as selling and serving web ads. But that was my second point. What if Google is thinking about expanding into design applications? There is established precedent for this in the form of (the now spun-off) Sketchup, Drive & Docs; Google has the resources to make a go of it; and there are plenty of people looking for alternatives to Adobe's Creative Suite. Microsoft has no apparent interest in challenging Adobe's domination of the industry, and the other competitors are fragmented and serve pretty small niche markets.
If Google is thinking about offering its own suite of design applications, then it would make sense for them to have their own stable of typefaces on offer (as Adobe does, and for the same reasons) and to start getting the attention of designers who specialize in things other than the web. They have a well-developed ecosystem for these applications already in place (integrated applications for communication, scheduling, composition, content management, file storage/sharing/serving, etc.). They already serve web type, obviously. And that they already have such a large source of revenue in place, and a lot of experience with online applications, gives them a couple of pretty significant advantages over both Monotype and Adobe.
Of course I'm speculating, and there would be all sorts of complicating factors—yes, like offering high-end customer support, and integrating any new applications with existing file-format and production conventions and practices, just to name a few. And I don't mean to endorse (or condemn) any of these possibilities, necessarily. But I don't think the idea of Google taking on Monotype and Adobe is that crazy.
– Google Fonts offering desktop font format downloads, which they’ve always allowed, just not in a nice interface
– Colophon designing a print specimen, as they always do for their typefaces
and extrapolate a huge tail of possible results from that.
I’ll just say again that it’s highly unlikely—if they enter the design app market, it’s going to be for entirely different reasons: most likely just because they want better tools for their own internal designers, and then they might even open-source them and give them away for free, because that’s how Google operates. And they certainly have the money to do such things.
I'm not speculating about Google's motives, just noticing behavior and potential. For what it's worth, I think it's more likely they'd expand into design software, and you're right that they could and probably would give it away, or license it for a lot cheaper than a Creative Cloud subscription. But having a catalog of decent fonts packaged along with the applications, fonts that designers can imagine using in print as well as online, would be an important part of that plan.
What I’d rather say is that Google is able to use their new connection with Colophon to make Google Fonts seem more designer-oriented, more hip itself—branding by association. Playing up that connection makes sense for them.
What brought this to mind was cleaning out old browser sessions today and I came upon a page by Pablo Impallari about "improved vertical metrics" of his font Petit Formal Script.
I'm assuming this would mess up the CSS line-height settings for whatever site was using the previous incarnation of the font. So I'd like to know how they handle hosting of VERSIONS of the fonts.
I've worked on vertical metric adjustments for their fonts but I have absolutely no idea if they just substitute the font with the new metrics for the old, or what.
Not in my purview.
@Stephen Coles I will reply your question soon (well... after the Argentina - Chile finals ), just let me elaborate it properly (my English needs a lot of google translate, and also, I don't want this thread to become another never-ending horse beating)
How big should the committee be?
How publicly should it operate?
Who wants to be on such a committee?
Which ones should be improved or de-listed? (Perhaps let me know privately)
I don't have any particular inside information. But since I'm supporting GF it since day 1, I may be a bit more familiar with the project history and development over the course of the years.
I can not agree with your interpretation that they feel embarrassed, because I know that they were always very proud of the project. Launching it was a huge challenge, keeping it alive was a challenge, making it grow was also a challenge, expanding it to Deva and all other non-latin scripts was a MONUMENTAL challenge.
Now that the success is almost exponential, the next challenge is to keep improving it.
Your post seems to promote the idea of "they didn't care before when it was small, and now that its huge they are starting to care" and that's plain wrong. They ALWAYS cared, even if you didn't notice because you didn't agree with their quantity-over-quality initial approach. But you know what: It worked. And it worked very very well.
Having to cancel or shutdown the project would have been embarrassing (well... maybe not embarrassing, but very sad.) but luckily we are now in the complete opposite extreme of that axis, serving (currently) 15B views per day, making it the biggest google's API ever.
This huge succeed is, of course, allowing for more resources and more attention. And it strengthens everyone desire to keep working, improving it, and making it better.
Everyone is welcome to participate, as it always was. I'm super happy that more and more designers & foundries are joining (even many of those who once were his fiercest detractors, have now released fonts under a Libre license) and I sincerely hope that more designers and foundries keep joining. The doors are always open.
There are many more challenges ahead. For example IAB finally killing flash ads, in favor of HTML5 and webfonts. There was a very insightful presentation at ATypI São Paulo about the issue and it implications for webfonts.
Also, to fully understand GF, you need to think more about webfonts "as a technology". Not only about the aestethic part of typeface design, but also as a new technological advance that needs to be approached by the mass public and become widely adopted in order to survive.
Webfont technology survived, and GF was big part of it. Now every single foundry also benefits from selling webfont technology.
Color fonts is new tech, will it ever be widely adopted? will it survive beyond emoji? Will foundries be able to sell color fonts massively?
Adam has been trying to push color fonts for a few years now, so far with little success, sadly.
MM webfonts will be new tech, will they ever be widely adopted? will they survive? Will foundries be able to sell MM Webfonts massively?
Here are 2 examples (GF + Typekit):
Here is another one (GF + Webtype):
Also, I would say design+engineering, together.
They new GF is not only beautiful, but its also awesomely engineered.
Of course I realise these are marginal cases, and the retail market does the same (at least the fonts are not for free so less competitive).
How much does the job pay?