When HTML was first created fonts and styles were controlled by the setting of each web browser. The mechanism for individual websites to control the display of fonts was introduced by Netscape in 1995. This was standardised in HTML2 but the font had to be installed on the user’s computer.

Because not every computer has the same operating system, and therefore not always the same fonts, designers can assign a font-stack. The first font in the row is used is available, if this font is not available the second one will be used. The last one in the list is always a generic font-family. This uses the default font of the font-family.

A few examples of the most used font-stacks:

font-family:Georgia,Utopia,Palatino,’Palatino Linotype’,serif;
font-family:”Times New Roman”,Times,serif;
font-family:’Courier New’,’Courier’,monospace;

If a designer wants to use a different font he is limited to a few methods:


@font-face is a css rule which allows the designer to ‘attach’ the font to a website. The user will download the font if it is not installed on the computer.


Cufon is a lightweight JavaScript plugin that uses Javascript & VML to render the font.


sIFR works with a Flash file that contains the font. This will download in the background and it uses JavaScript to render the font.

There are also a few websites like typekit and webtype that will host the fonts for a set fee.

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