The first stable verison of the Python programming language is officially released by Guido van Rossum. Though Python is not strictly a web language, it had references to the web and to HTML in its 1.0.0 release notes, and is often used in web applications to manipulate, process, and format data.
Spyglass Rewrites the Mosaic Browser
Realizing that they had a product they didn’t know how to sell, NCSA turns to Spyglass to begin distributing the Mosaic browser commercially. Spyglass would eventually rewrite the Mosaic browser and license it to companies like IBM and O’Reilly Media, before it eventually became a foundational piece of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Developed by University of Washington computer science student Brian Pinkerton, WebCrawler was among the first search engines, and the first to offer full text search of page content. Within six months, it would serve over a million queries, and it was acquired by AOL shortly after its first anniversary. WebCrawler would change hands several more times over the years.
Justin’s Links from the Underground
Justin Hall creates his first website from his Swathmore dorm room. He calls it Links from the Underground. It begins as a simple list of links but soon expands to one of the earliest examples of a blog on the web, with Justin sharing intimate details from his life every day.
HoTMeTaL enters the market as one of the first WYSIWYG editors created specifically for the web. The software is a hybrid of a text and visual editor, that lets users edit a document using custom styles, while still maintaining semantic HTML.
BookLink Technologies releases InternetWorks for Windows, the first browser to feature tabbed browsing and advanced browsing history features. Several months after its release, it would be acquired by AOL for use inside the platform, until it was replaced by Netscape.
Cool Site of the Day
Created by Glenn Davis as a way of featuring great new sites, Cool Site of the Day, was updated daily with a new website on its homepage. It would eventually garner millions of views a month, before its popularity waned.
The earliest example of a single serving website, Jeff Abrahamson quietly launches Purple.com. The site is purple. Just purple. Though it originally is released with a background color of #DD00FF, this is later changed to #7D26CD to make the site more “purple” looking.
Cyberia, widely regarded as the first official Internet café, opens its doors in London. The space is originally intended as a space for women to learn about the Internet, but it is open to all. The idea catches fire, and cyber café’s open up all over the world.
The domain name for Tripod is registered, pre-dating most other free web hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. Tripod’s explicit goal is to give college students a way of setting up a spot for themselves on the web, though it would eventually come to be known as an easy-to-use service for free web homepages.
W3C Interactive Talk
The W3C releases Interactive Talk, a form based discussion system. Interactive Talk is the first attempt at creating software that allows for two way conversation and is used mostly internally at the W3C. In the years to come, it would become the template for forums and message board software.
The First Banner Ad
Hotwired launches with the web’s first official banner ad, a simple image with the text “Have You Ever Clicked Your Mouse Right Here?” highlighting the forward thinking of AT&T. The ad brought users to a landing page that took them on a virtual tour of worldwide art museums.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
The World Wide Web Consortium is founded by Tim Berners-Lee with one location at MIT, and one at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. The W3C is a standards body organization, and makes recommendations to browsers for the technologies that make up the web. Its members include standards experts, browser makers, and multi-national companies with a stake in the web’s future.
Time Warner Pathfinder
An early example of an online web portal, Pathfinder hosted content from around 80 different content providers, major media publications that syndicated content to the site. It would soon become famous for an incredibly high turnover rate, but it would also be the starting point for many renowned tech journalists and entrepreneurs. It was officially shut down in April of 1999.
The first browser sold by Netscape Communications, Netscape Navigator is released to wide and critical appeal. It would eventually become the most popular browser in the world, until it is surpassed by Microsoft during the Browser Wars.
Larry Wall releases Perl version 5, a complete rewrite of the programming language that was originally released in late 1987. Perl 5 was the first library to feature first class support for database interfaces, and would soon be used to create an entirely new generation of webpages and web-based applications.
Wired Magazine‘s unveils its first online presence Hotwired.com, which would become the first commercial online magazine. The site’s design, from the very first version, sits on the cutting edge, and is redesigned on an almost yearly basis.
David Bohnett and John Rezner create a web hosting service called Beverly Hills Internet. After giving away a fixed amount of web storage for free, they change the name to Geocities and create a number of “neighborhoods” for amateur webmasters to connect through. Yahoo would later acquire Geocities in 1999, and take it offline in 2009.
Claudio Pinhanez begins writing daily entries on the MIT Media Lab website. It becomes an early example of an online diary, and a template for others to follow — Pinahenz has one of the earliest examples of his posts arranged in reverse chronological format, which would become a standard format.
UK magazine publisher Future Publishing launches .net magazine. Though the content is initially for Internet users of any kind (including technologies like email and Gopher), it would eventually center largely on articles for web designers and developers. The magazine would go through several iterations before it was officially ended in June of 2020.
Carolyn Burke begins publishing stories from her life to her website. Each day brings a new entry with some links she found on the web, and a short anecdote from her day. She calls it her online diary. It would later be called a blog.
Nancy Evans, Candice Carpenter, and Robert Levitan launch iVillage, an offshoot of Parent Soup, an editorial and community channel launched by Evans and Carpenter on AOL. The site’s main focus is on its message boards, which attract a brand new community of women to the web looking for a shared space.
As a sort of counterbalance to the techno-idealist view of Hotwired magazine, Stefanie Syman and Steven Johnson start Feed, a web zine with thoughtful, in-depth pieces about news, the tech scene and culture. Feed joins Automatic Media in 2000, and officially closes its doors in 2001.
Lynda.com launches as a way for author and teacher Lynda Weinman to collect questions related to her book and in-person courses. Over the years, it evolves from a small community of developers, to a place to buy web design DVDs and ask questions, to a full online course offering across dozens of subjects.
After working on an experimental browser as part of a research project at Telenor, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy demo their new browser Opera at the third International WWW Conference. Over the years, the Opera browser would expand to a whole host of devices, from mobile phones to gaming devices to in-store checkout lines.
Founded by editors from The San Francisco Examiner and originally intended to be part of Apple’s eWorld network, Salon launches thanks to financial backing by Adobe Ventures. Over the years they would build up a devoted audience and community, live through an initially successful then failed IPO, and break the news on several major scandals.
While in New York, Aliza Sherman reaches out to a few women she had met online to suggest an in-person gathering. Over time, this group evolves into Webgrrls, a national organization for women of the web with tens of thousands of members and chapters in just about every major city.
Batman Forever Site
Batman Forever represents one of the first major marketing and visual design efforts on the web. The site features a few experimental technologies, such as message boards, downloadable videos and an animated intro.
The Internet Tidal Wave
In a memo sent to all employees, Bill Gates reverses his previous opinion of the Internet, making it the center of Microsoft’s future. In the months following the memo, Microsoft would launch their first web browser, Internet Explorer.
Founder Jamie Levy and editor Marisa Bowe launch Word Magazine, the earliest example of an exclusively online publication that blended brutally honest content with a unique, zine-inspired aesthetic. Though it only lasted a few years, it influenced the first wave of web design and online magazines for years to come.
PHP: Hypertext Preprocesser
Rasmus Lerdorf publicly releases his “Personal Home Page Tools” package (or just PHP Tools for short). Though originally a fairly rudimentary tool built on top of CGI, after several iterations PHP would eventually evolve into the most popular programming language on the web.
One of the first online communities, Tom Fulp launches Newgrounds as a simple online extension of his in-print zine. In 2002, Fulp would open Newgrounds to user submissions via the Portal, and soon after become the first site to host creative animations and videos from a strong following.
Jeff Bezos launches his online bookseller, though his goal is to expand to other markets as soon as possible. The site is one of the earliest examples of an exclusively online retailer, and it would create the roadmap for the commercial web for the next decade and beyond.
Originally a BBS and online service known as Women’s WIRE, founded by Ellen Pack and Nancy Rhine, the site relaunches as a community website thanks to partner Marleen McDaniel. It would become a central destination for women online, with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. It would be purchased by iVillage in 2001, in the wake of the dot-com crash.
Though still in its first year as a company, Netscape goes public to soaring stock prices and a boosted valuation. Not long after, Netscape Navigator 2.0 is released which goes on to claim 75% of the browser market.
Internet Explorer 1.0
In order to compete with Netscape, Microsoft enters the market with a browser of their own. In its first version, Internet Explorer is mostly licensed code from Spyglass Mosaic, though this is eventually rewritten. It lacked crucial features, but subsequent versions of Internet Explorer would see marked improvements.
Microsoft launches a dial-up service and Internet Service Provider known as The Microsoft Network alongside a web portal known as Microsoft Internet Start, to coincide with its release of the Internet Explorer browser. By 1998, Microsoft will have closed their proprietary network in favor of a suite of web-based tools, and collapsed Internet Start into MSN.com as a more traditional web directory and navigation site.
Suck quietly launches as an online zine that embraces the weird world of the tech scene. Each day, creators Joey Anuff and Carl Steadman replace the homepage with a new quippy article. The site is bought by Hotwired, then sold to Lycos, and eventually becomes a part of Automatic Media.
David Litman and Robert Diener move their hotel reservation system to the web using the domain hoteldiscounts.com. One of the earliest examples of a travel booking site on the web, it would eventually be purchased by USA Networks (along with Expedia) and move to Hotels.com.
Pierre Omidyar carves out a small section on his site for auctioning stuff off called AuctionWeb. The first item he lists personally is a broken laser pointer that is snatched up in no time. By 1997, AuctionWeb will have moved to its own domain name and redubbed: eBay.
Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner create web based radio site AudioNet, based on an Internet based radio startup by Chris Jaeb. Within a few years, the company would stream broadcasts from hundreds of sporting events and stream content to millions of users. It would eventually rebrand to Broadcast.com, a high watermark of investment during the dot-com boom.
Day in the Life of Cyberspace
MIT lab launches an early community experiment, soliciting submissions from people all over the world, and posting them to their website on the day of their 10th anniversary. The site acted as a time capsule, documenting the way in which people were finding new ways to work and live on the Internet.
Data Protection Directive
One of the first pieces of legislation passed internationally regarding privacy online, the Data Protection Directive provides protections for individuals with regard to data collection online. It restricts the unnecessary collection of personal data, and requires sites to make clear exactly what data will be tracked. It was superseded in 2018 by the General Data Protection Regulation.
Nettime Mailing List
A mailing list created by Geert Lovink and Pit Schultz for artists and critics willing to take the web seriously as an artistic medium. It was the launching pad for movements such as net.art and Net Critique, and served as a meeting ground for some of the most influential writers and artists of the early web.
Netly News, an online publication and part of the emerging web zine scene, gets its start as part of Time Incorporated. It is launched by Josh Quittner, who uses the site to dive into issues of tech and tech culture.
FrontPage is released by Vermeer Technologies. Its goal is to allow even beginners to create websites easily using drag and drop tools and would soon become one of the most popular web authoring tools on the market.
The first streaming radio website from co-founders Scott Bourne and Scot Combs. Their servers are set up to convert analog radio stations to digital RealAudio streams, discoverable on their website alongside concert schedules and band profiles. In 1997, NetRadio would be acquired by Navarre Corporation, and then suspended altogether in 2001.
One of the earliest examples we have of a social network, founder Randy Conrads initially launches the site as a way of finding former high school classmates through a paid service. It eventually expands to include many of the features familiar in modern social media, including profile, chat, and friends.
HTML 2.0 is published as IETF RFC 1866, and includes elements from previous iterations of HTML specifications alongside some brand new ones. It would remain the latest specification until January of 1997.
Developed by Dave Raggett as a way to demonstrate the extended feature set of HTML+, Arena would eventually become the testing browser at the W3C until it was replaced by Amaya.
A new approach to laying out designs on the web, Liquid Layout advocates for the use of percentage width tables over the predominantly fixed-width designs of the ’90’s. When set in percentages, websites are able to expand or narrow based on the resolution it is being rendered in.
In December, Pitchfork launches (originally with the name Turntable), making it one of the first MP3 blogs on the web. Soon, hundreds of MP3 blogs pop up to surface underground tracks, posting downloadable music tracks next to offbeat reviews all with the ultimate goal of sharing music discovery.
Yukihiro Matsumoto designs Ruby as an offshoot of Perl (and influenced by Python), focusing on simple shortcuts and small wins for developers. The language is dynamically typed and forgiving by design, and takes off first in Japan, then later worldwide.
Adobe enters the editor scene with PageMill, a visual tool for creating websites. Originally, PageMill offers basic layout and content editing, but starting in version 2.0, grows to include a robust table and frames editor and a host of advanced visual features.
Designing Web Graphics
Lynda Weinman publishes the massively successful Designing Web Graphics after looking for an introductory book for a design class she was teaching, and finding none. The book grounds itself in a discussion of web graphics as a way of properly introducing the capabilities and potential of web design.
Created inside of American Airlines as an extension of their electronic booking service Sabre, Travelocity opens to the public. Using the site, visitors can view and book flights directly, skipping the call to their travel agents. It is one of the earliest examples online of an air travel booking service on the web.
Designing for the Web: Getting Started in a New Medium
Jennifer Niederst writes Designing for the Web,her first foray into publishing and one of the first books about web design ever published. The book targets print and graphic designers looking to make the leap to the web, and provides all of the tools and techniques necessary to make that transition possible.
Microsoft Acquires FrontPage
Microsoft acquires FrontPage web authoring software from Vermeer. It is soon incorporated into Microsoft Office Suite. It would go on to be a leading web publishing tool, with a user friendly interface that tucked away code and made creating websites just as easy as drafting a Word document.
HTML Editorial Review Board
After the HTML standard languishes at IETF, the W3C brings the HTML specification in-house and forms a review board to oversee its development. This group would go on to publish HTML 3.2, a major step forward and a consolidation of several competing standards.
Originally created as a mailing list by Mark Tribe, Rhizome grew as an organization dedicated to Internet art. It would eventually operate as a non-profit organization, with its website acting as a repository of interviews and collections of Internet art, with several satellite projects such as ArtBase, created to aid in the archiving of works of art on the web.
The Great Web Blackout Protest
On the day a highly controversial new bill called the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was signed into law, over 1,500 websites turned their designs black in opposition. The protest was organized Shabbir J. Safdar and brought awareness for, and ultimately action against, the new legislation.
PointCast launches in beta, promising to bring new “push” based technology to the web platform. PointCast streamed content from websites directly to user’s computers via their screensaver. Within a few years, it would prove a failed experiment, as many abandoned push technology for the ubiquity of their web browsers.
The Internet Archive and Alexa
Brewster Kahle develops Alexa, a web crawler that analyzes user patterns on the web to provide more relevant search results. He also begins depositing sites crawled by Alexa into the Internet Archive, which would grow to become the largest archive of the web, and its own non-profit entity.
What began as an email list for events and random classifieds launches on its own domain, the eponymous craigslist.org, founded by Craig Newmark and Philip Knowlton. The small list of classifieds would soon expand to city after city, allowing anyone to post their listings with notoriously view restrictions and very little in the way of overt advertising or ornate design.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
The Web Accessibility Initiative, an effort by the W3C to improve web accessibility, officially kicks off. The WAI is responsible for the publication of several guidelines (WCAG) as well as overseeing improvements to accessibility in web standards and legislation.
net.art began online, in the nettime mailing list, with a small of group of artists. Many met for the first time in person in May of 1996 at net.art per se, a conference organized by net artist Vuk Cosic. Over the next few years, the
net.art movement would largely exist outside the mainstream web and art worlds, instead distributing their works of unique, digital art directly to new visitors.
Creating Killer Websites
David Siegel writes Creating Killer Websites, a book that advocates for visual design over strict adherence to web standards. In it, Siegel demonstrates how to use tables and other HTML hacks to layout grids and design websites. After the book is published, these techniques become more mainstream.
Thanks to backing by Microsoft, Slate magazine launches, promising, “part of our mission at Slate will be trying to bring cyberspace down to earth.” The magazine has changed formats, editors, and even parent companies (as of 2004, Slate has been owned by the Washington Post), but it has maintained a steady voice and tone and mission to synthesize and editorialize the news.
Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launch one of the first web-based email service, HoTMaiL (emphasis on HTML). Until then, users relied on ISP’s or online portals like AOL for their email, tying them to their individual providers. Hotmail was among the first to provide a web interface for accessing and sending email. Within a year it would be scooped up by Microsoft and would eventually become Outlook.com.
The GoLive editor is launched for the Macintosh operating system. It is one of the first editors to rely heavily on a drag and drop interface for building websites. It also supports proprietary Netscape tags, such as custom fonts and background colors.
Bobby launches as one of the first accessibility tools on the web. In its first iteration, developers could enter a link to their site or upload an HTML file and get back a comprehensive accessibility report. It would go through several versions, each more advanced than the last, until it was discontinued in 2005.
After a year of development, NetObjects launches their web design and publishing tool Fusion (originally known as SitePublisher). It commissioned design work from designers like Susan Kare and Clement Mok in order to deliver one of the earliest visually driven, WYSIWYG web editing experiences. The company would go through several shifts, including backing from IBM, an IPO, and eventual sale to Web.com
After an internal team at Microsoft pivoted from an Encarta based travel guidebook to a travel booking website, Expedia launches with online access to air travel, hotels, and car reservations. Eventually, the site will be spun off into its own independent company prior to the dot-com surge of the early 2000’s.
Vignette launches another early entry into the content management market, after working with Cnet to distribute their internal publishing tool, Prism. The software would evolve into a personalization tool, used for both web publishing and customer tracking. The software has been used by The Wall Street Journal and NASA.
Macromedia acquires FutureWave software, along with their web animation tool and embedded player, FutureSplash Animator. They rename this software Flash and begin implementing new features to make it more appealing to developers. Flash would inspire a new wave of web design that focused on catchy animations, website intros and interactivity.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Håkon W. Lie proposes the first iteration of Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, as a way of styling web pages. CSS gets its strength from its support of multiple stylesheets on the same page, and from its simple declarative syntax. CSS is soon adopted by the W3C as an official standard, and is integrated into modern browsers little by little.