HoTMeTaL

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.

Purple.com

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 Cyber Cafe

The Window at the Cafe

Thanks to the web, in 1999 (or thereabouts), you might find yourself at home, staring at the virtual window of your computer screen, looking out the very real windows of your favorite cyber café.

Cyberia

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.

Tripod

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.

The W3C official logo

Making the Web For Everyone

I talked a bit about the importance of the WWW Wizards Workshop last time in my recap on the importance of 1995, but there was another essential element of that meeting I glossed over a bit. In July of 1993, a few dozen developers huddled together at the O’Reilly offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They had […]

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.

When Rotuma Came to the Web

The web distributes access, access to information, and access to one another. Access on the web is what brings us to small island off the coast of Fiji, where web pioneers forged a unique community.

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.

Netscape Navigator

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.

Hotwired

Wired Magazines 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.

Geocities Logo from its early days

An Ode to Geocities

Geocities is likely a site you’ve heard of. It may even have been a site that you used. It’s origin, and the movement it later inspired, is an incredible story of self-expression and serendipity.

Geocities

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.

iVillage

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.

Feed Magazine

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.

Homepage of Lynda.com around 2003

The Books That Shaped How We Learn About the Web

It might seem strange to talk about books on the web, but when designers first turned to books for a way to learn about the web, Lynda Weinman and Jennifer Robbins showed them the way.

Lynda.com

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.

Opera

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.

Salon, Slate, and a History of the Tricky Business of Publishing Online

In the first few years of the web’s spread to ubiquity, traditional news publishers moved online. But a new kind of publisher was also born, one that was native to the web, with a whole new set of rules.

Salon

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.

Screenshot of the Cybergrrrl website by Aliza Sherman

Discovering the True Meaning of the Web

In the late 1980’s, Aliza Sherman moved to New York City and took a job in the music business, helping to manage bands like Def Leppard and Metallica. In 1992, she changed gears and began working with the Internet. The web still existed mostly within the hallways of CERN, but Sherman found her place on […]

Webgrrls

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.

Why Batman Forever is so Important for the Web

You may have heard the name Jeffrey Zeldman before. He’s often referred to as the godfather of the web, and in the early 2000’s he was a major force behind the Web Standards Project. But Zeldman started his career in advertising, and wound up at Grey Entertainment in the mid-90s. It was Alec Pollak who […]

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.

Word Magazine

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.

The History of Rewriting PHP

If you work on the web, you know that with software, things don’t always go right the first time. The web is this massive, global community tinkering with loosely connected technologies to piece together websites that, with any luck, work well together. These tools and technologies are always in flux and there have been plenty […]

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.

The Newgrounds Portal

A Sense of Community: From Newgrounds to MLKSHK

Most people think of the web as a magical other life, as someplace else and not, in point of fact, real. That’s bunk. Our web lives are real. So just like real life, communities tend to cluster together around ideas, and form microcosmic subcultures in the process. Sometimes, this leads to terrible groups feeling empowered by their own echo […]

Newgrounds

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.

Netscape IPO

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.

Suck.com

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.

eBay, API’s, and the Connected Web

There’s this story about Ebay and Pez that used to go around. It goes something like this: Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, was looking for something to do after moving to San Jose from Boston and selling his first startup, an ecommerce pen computing platform named eShop, to Microsoft. At the time, Omidyar’s fiancee […]

eBay

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.

The 10-Day Programming Language (Is Kind of a Myth)

In 1995, Netscape Navigator was enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of the browser market. They had only released the first version of their browser a year prior, but already it was a crowd favorite and was bolstering the growing popularity of the web. But employees at Netscape were constantly looking over their shoulder, knowing full […]

JavaScript

Netscape bundles the first version of their new programming language in browser betas. The language is originally developed by Brendan Eich in the months prior, and would soon become a novel, foundational, language of the web. JavaScript gives developers an easy way to access the DOM (Document Object Model) and add interactivity to websites.

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.

The Web After Suck

In 1995, Josh Quittner had big plans. He was launching his new site, Netly News as part of Pathfinder, Time Inc’s heavily trafficked web portal. He wanted it to be big. Like change-journalism-on-the-web big. He certainly had the experience. Quittner was one of a few journalists familiarizing themselves with a new spirit of digital publishing. […]

Netly News

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

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.

HTML 2.0

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.

Liquid Layout

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.

The Internet Underground Music Archive homepage in 1999

The Online World of High Taste and Rock Music

This is a small chunk of history of rock music on the web. It begins in Santa Cruz. Michael Goldberg left Rolling Stone magazine sometime in 1993. He did so because over 20 years of experience as an editor and writer in the music business was telling him that the digital world, and specifically the Internet, was […]

MP3 Blogs

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.

Ruby

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 PageMill

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.

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.

Rhizome

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.

Mozilla SOPA protest screenshot of site

The Day(s) The Web Fought Back

February 1, 1996 was an absolutely terrible day for Shabbir J. Safdar. Safdar believed deeply in the open web, so much so that he started the non-profit organization Voter Telecommunications Watch (VTW) so that he could help protect it. That day, the first of February, the United States Congress decided to dismantle a part of […]

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. 

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.

Putting Web Accessibility First

Quite frankly, my feeling is that the primary reason why the web is not accessible or not wholly accessible to people with disabilities today is because individuals with disabilities are not considered as part of the core population when we created the web and web sites and even in its initial design. -Mike Paciello The […]

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.

A bit of Internet art from creator Vuk Cosic which displays an image rendered in green on black 1's and 0's

A Love Letter to Net.Art

In an interview for her book Internet Art in 2004, writer Rachel Greene had this to say about why she felt the subject of her book was so important: I refuse to let commercial interests dominate the history and perception of the net because I think they would exclude the most important and dynamic internal content […]

net.art

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.

Tables for Layout? Absurd.

Web designers that cut their teeth in the late 90’s and early 2000’s probably remember table-based layouts. This was a time when some webmasters forced their sites into perfect configuration using HTML data tables, spacer GIF images and a few kindred hacks. But for a while there, there weren’t a whole lot of options in […]

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.

Slate

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.

A Moment In Time with Editors

Let’s go back to 1996, in Boston, at the annual Macworld Expo. Not a great year for Apple mind you. It wouldn’t be until a year later that Steve Jobs would make his return, and sales were at an all time low. But it was an excellent time for the web. In June of 1995 […]

GoLive

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

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.

Macromedia Flash

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.

A Look Back at the History of CSS

When you think of HTML and CSS, you probably imagine them as a package deal. But for years after Tim Berners-Lee first created the World Wide Web in 1989, there was no such thing as CSS. The original plan for the web offered no way to style a website at all. There’s a now-infamous post […]

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.