The fonts used on the web have been limited to perhaps 5 fonts that you could be certain were on the web user’s computer. So, if you wanted any font outside the 5-safe-fonts box, you needed to capture it in a graphic. This meant more development time, more upkeep time, and more download to the page time. It also made it challenging, if not impossible, for the Search Engines to pick up the information in the graphic. Then along came Font Kits, using @font-face, a means to an end.
Google carried the baton and has made the availability of web fonts ubiquitous. Creativity in topography reigns!