In the latest issue of American Scientist I write about the awkward and ugly business of trying to present mathematical typography on the web. All the while I was writing the column, I had constantly in mind the uncomfortable knowledge that the column itself—with all of its examples of equations and arcane symbols—would have to be prepared for presentation in HTML. The conversion went more smoothly than I expected, thanks to the energy and expertise of Anna Lena Phillips. Nevertheless, I recommend reading the PDF version.
This is not a new idea. Most of the recent discussion of embedable or linkable fonts focuses on legal impediments, which seem quite manageable to me (though of course I’m not a lawyer, nor am I an owner of typeface copyrights). Are there other reasons to back away from such a proposal? The bandwidth required seems moderate by present-day standards, and there are obvious schemes for avoiding waste by sending only glyphs that are actually needed in a document and not already present on the client computer. Publishers and advertisers would doubtless abuse the facility with garish attempts to attract attention, but we survived the <marquee> and <blink> tags back in the nineties, and an attack of circus-poster typefaces seems no more obnoxious. Am I missing something obvious?