Google Fonts was formally launched in May 2010, and it’s now very popular among web designers for plenty of reasons. For one, there are no monthly fees or complicated sign-ups. It’s also a very simple service to use. You only need to include a single line of code to your site, and you instantly gain access to a massive selection of beautiful fonts. Despite all that, a few questions need to be asked.
Why is Google occupying the font space? What’s the upside of hosting fonts for millions of users for free? Does Google Fonts have a role to play in Google’s long-term playbook, or will it end up in the Google graveyard?
What’s The Upside For Google?
Google Fonts has been accessed over 2.6 trillion times since it started. While it is true that most of the fonts are already cached in the user’s browser, that is still a huge number even for Google. And, hosting such kind of service is not free. The argument could be made that Google Fonts is similar to other services such as Google Maps or Youtube. In fact, you can say that those two services are a lot more expensive to host.
However, there’s a glaring difference here as Google monetizes those two through ads while monetizing Google Fonts is very limited and non-existent for now. On top of the hosting costs, Google has to divert engineers to maintain the service. At the very least, that would mean taking away labor resources from projects that could be more profitable.
Google Fonts – What Did They Start It Anyway?
Google has never really publicly stated why it started Google Fonts. Furthermore, the said company does not think like most companies, so it isn’t easy to pinpoint the primary reason why Google started Google Fonts. However, speculations are floating around such as:
Encourages The Use Of Fonts Rather Than Images – images play a crucial role when presenting any kind of information. It helps the audience to understand the subject better, and it’s also eye-pleasing. However, search engine bots have issues accurately identifying images and what it’s all about. If bots can’t fully understand it, then the search results could also be affected. Search engine results are the bread butter of Google. Hence, Google Fonts may have been established to encourage web designers to opt for beautiful fonts whenever possible instead of images.
Improving Other Google Products – Google has plenty of products, and those products also use Google Fonts. Thus, when a person uses Roboto, the fonts (like Open Sans) used at the site are cached in the user’s browser. When that same user then visits another Google site, Open San will load a lot faster as it’s already cached. As a result, quicker load times result in a better user experience.
Data Collection – while this answer might be close to a conspiracy theory, the bottom line is that Google may be using Google Fonts for gathering data.
Google For The Web Equals Good For Google – since Google is one of the major players in the online market, improving the web may also help Google. Google Fonts does improve the web in its own way. Thus, it’s indirectly or directly helping Google at the same time.
If Google Fonts Shuts Down Tomorrow?
The more likely thing that will happen is that the designers and users using Google Fonts will be upset. However, it’s likely that people will just move on. The Internet was working fine before the invention of web fonts back in 1989. Furthermore, it’s not like access to fonts is lost forever. There are plenty of open-source fonts out there, and anyone can just download and host them themselves.
What’s The Forecast?
While no one outside of Google knows why Google Fonts is still around, the bottom line is that it still exists. For some reason, Google may be benefiting by providing such a free service. It could be that they could be gathering data, it improves the web as a whole, or encouraging designers to use beautiful texts rather than images. In fact, Google may be just providing such a free service because Google just wants to be the good guy.
But, the question is – will Google Fonts be around one or five years from now? With no definite reason for how Google is benefiting from Google Fonts, the answer could be as mundane as – who knows?