Good bye, JAF webfont service. Hello self-hosting webfonts!

Just over five years ago, we launched our own webfont service – in fact, we were one of the earliest commercial webfont providers on the net, proceeded only by Typotheque and Typekit. Today, we are saying good-bye to her.

Our self-hosting webfont offers, previously available on request, are now integrated into our online shop. What’s more, you can purchase licences with pricing starting at € 89 per style for 500,000 pageviews per month.

In early 2010, when JAF was still a one-man business, my friend and excellent typographer Florian Hardwig asked us whether JAF Facit was available as webfonts. “Good question – ,” I said, “give me three days.” Like most type designers, I had never taken the subject of fonts on the screen seriously before. Looking back, it was just the right moment to nudge me to jump in at the deep end. After a few days of research, it felt like I had found out everything one could know about webfonts – which was not very much at that time. Font makers and users were still experimenting, the “Big Bang” of webfonts had just happened, with the launch of Typotheque’s first webfont service made possible by Peter Bilak’s development of font obfuscation techniques.

At the time, WOFF fonts were not widely supported yet and naturally, foundries would not allow the use of fully functional, standard TTFs or OTFs on websites. Obfuscated TTFs are “just broken enough” not to be installable on a normal computer but functional enough to work as webfonts. With this principle in mind, and after a two-month self-taught hinting tour de force, our service went live. While the font serving itself was robust and reliable from the beginning, the administration and business aspects were a little experimental, just enough to get going. It was fun and felt good to be on the leading edge, though. I enjoyed using these newly acquired skills to build projects like the Facitizer, a tool that allows you to preview any website in JAF Facit, a concept later adopted by other webfont providers.

Shortly later, Typkeit offered to add JAF fonts to their library, which I gladly accepted. Another important step came in late 2010, when I joined the Typekit team, which means since then I have been wearing two hats as a consultant and foundry.

In the early days of the webfonts, we were convinced that a hosted webfont service based on a subscription model was the way to go – we saw this as an opportunity to finally end the illegal use of fonts, and thought the self-hosting option was too risky.

As webfonts became easier to use and produce – with almost all browsers supporting a “real” webfont format such as EOT or WOFF – people in the industry started questioning whether webfont services were still necessary. After all, webfonts can now be produced and distributed by the foundries directly using the same models as for desktop fonts. Users seemed split between those who prefer the ease of use and relative affordability of a service and those who prefer to host the fonts themselves and be technologically independent.

The current development is that the large webfont services seem as popular as ever while independent foundries are focusing on offering self-hosting solutions. Running a service creates a lot of overhead work – which is a burden when you really want to focus on designing type. For this reason, we decided to close down our webfont service.

As of this week, we are no longer accepting new subscriptions for the JAF webfont service. The service will continue for existing customers until the end of 2016. All of them can purchase self-hosting webfonts at a reduced price, taking into account the full amount they have spent on the service.

All our webfonts continue to be available on Typekit, if you prefer to use a subscription-based webfont service instead.

JAF Self-hosting webfont licences – previously only available on request – can now be purchased directly from our web shop. We lowered the minimum license to 500,000 pageviews per month, for €89 per single style or €389 for a whole family. Further updates to the shop include app fonts, multi-user licences and support for payments in US$.