The History of the Web logo

Unraveling the web's story

HTML Working Group

Because of the success of the HTML Editorial Review Board, the W3C founds the HTML Working Group, where representatives from browsers, software companies and the standards community can get together to work on future HTML specifications. In just under a year, they would have the next version of HTML ready to go.

HTML 3.2

After HTML 3.0 is officially abandoned, the W3C drafts and publishes HTML 3.2 as an official recommendation. The new specification includes several features already implemented in browsers such as tables, superscripts, advanced forms, and more. Much of this version of HTML is still in use today.

The Webby Awards

Billed as the modern day tech take on the Oscars, the Webby’s began as an offshoot of Web Magazine with a small pool of nominations at an understated, offbeat ceremony. Over the years it grew to an event with dozens of categories, celebrity hosts, and the biggest names in the tech world, and outside of it, receiving awards.


Sun Microsystems releases their first and only browser to the market. Originally forked from Mosaic several years earlier, HotJava was rewritten in the Java programming language for its release. Its main differentiator was support for Java applets, a technology that made it possible to run full Java applications right inside of a webpage, later adopted by most major browsers.


A collective of three designers that met in Berlin, represented the beginning of the rise of pixel art on the web. Their unique and vast cityspaces provided inspiration for those working in design both on the web and in the larger design community.


Built on the concept of six degrees of separation, SixDegrees, one of the earliest social networks, used your existing offline relationships to build your digital profile through an expanding profile of friends of friends. The site is notable for attempting to bridge the gap between online and offline life. It sold in December of 1999, only to be shut down a year later.


ECMA releases an official standard for ECMAScript, based off the work being done with JavaScript. Netscape had developed JavaScript in the years before, but wished to standardize to avoid being the sole maintainer. ECMAScript draws heavily from version of JavaScript implemented in the Netscape browser, with some improvements.


Priceline launches on the premise that airlines and hotels have vacancies to fill they might be willing to sell at a discount in exchange for flexibility. The initial gimmick lets visitors select a list of preferences that match them with airline tickets and hotel rooms where they could name their own price backed by high profile ads starring William Shatner.


While searching for common software solutions to building web applications, J.J. Allaire builds the first version of his own web application environment alongside his brother Jeremy at Allaire Corporation. Coldfusion uses the semantics of HTML to create a language capable of querying and manipulating data from aa database and other advanced web features. In 2001, it is acquired by Macromedia.


AsianAve launches with the goal of connecting the Asian American community to an editorial portal online. Over time, it would slowly evolve into one of the first social networks, with features like profiles, messaging, and job postings. One of AsianAve’s co-founders, Benjamin Sun, would soon go on to help launch BlackPlanet as well.

Internet Explorer 4.0

The fourth version of Microsoft’s browser is bundled for free and deeply integrated with the Windows operating system. IE 4 would go on to surpass Netscape’s market share during the infamous “Browser Wars,” but its distribution methods would be called into question during an antitrust lawsuit brought against Microsoft .

Resource Description Framework (RDF)

A W3C working group issues a specification for RDF, after years of development. RDF makes connecting webpages together a lot easier by representing its metadata in a standard, machine-readable format. It builds on the work of Ramanathan V. Guha and Tim Bray.


Originally a Linux themed blog named “Chips & Dips,” creator Rob Malda decides to rename the site to Slashot as a way of playing with the name of URLs sounded out loud. Over the years, and thanks to a robust community, Slashdot will become a hub for activity and discussion on the web, on a wide range of topics.


Macromedia launches their visual code editor, which combines WYSIWYG drag and drop tools with a code editor in a single software package. Over the years, Dreamweaver would be the tool of choice for a lot of designers, releasing several versions with expanding support for web standards and technologies.


Jorn Barger posts to his site, The Robot Wisdom Weblog, for the first time, which is widely regarded as the first official blog. Originally called “web-blogs,” blogs started out as a place for links and some commentary, though they eventually evolved into something more like online journals.


Heather and Heidi Swanson launch the half web-ring, half social platform site ChickClick. It links out to dozens of other woman-focused sites with new articles and commentary posted each day. It is among the first site to offer free homepage creation tools to its users with its subsite ChickPages.

XML Version 1.0

The W3C publishes a specification for XML, a way to structure data readable by both machines and computers. XML is used heavily in web services, and allows for web servers and clients to relay information back and forth programatically.

The Goto search engine launches out of Idealabs, an incubator in Pasadena run by Bill Gross. It allows advertisers to big against one another for placement in certain search keywords, and presents users with entirely sponsored results. Over the years, Goto would go through several changes, including a name change to Overture and an ultimate acquisition by Yahoo, but it also influenced modern search practices significantly.


Dave Winer introduces XML-RPC as a stopgap while the SOAP protocol is held up. XML-RPC allows for communication over web-based HTTP using XML as its data format.

Mozilla Open Sourced

With almost no warning, Netscape open sources their browser and suite of Internet tools. A new team, the Mozilla Organization, is formed inside of Netscape to manage the direction of the source code and community. This team would later become the Mozilla Foundation.


Larry Masinter publishes an RFC for Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP), an April Fools joke and fictitious extension to HTTP meant to shine a light on the poor protocol designs that had crossed Masinter’s desk at the IETF. It included the HTTP error code 418: I'm a Teapot, which has since become a reference circulated throughout the web community.


While still in high school, Matt Mickiewicz begins compiling common resources for web designers at his site Within a few years, he’ll join with Mark Harbottle to create Sitepoint, an online magazine and community geared towards web designers with simple, targeted articles.


The W3C officially recommends the first major step forward for Cascading Style Sheets, bundling new functionality like positioning, bi-directional text, and additional font styling attributes. It is eventually adopted by all modern browsers, including the still-relatively new Internet Explorer beginning with Internet Explorer 5 for Mac.

PHP Version 3 Released

Though PHP had seen several rewrites up to this point, version 3 represented a complete overhaul of the software and its final step into becoming a complete programming language. It was spearheaded by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, two students in Tel Aviv, who gathered together PHP creator Lerdof and dozens of developers to make PHP faster, cleaner, and far more extendable then ever before.

US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 508

President Clinton signs into law the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, including a revised Section 508 which was expanded to include the World Wide Web. It mandates that any websites published by or used by the government or federal agencies be completely accessible to those with disabilities, and makes these rules enforceable.

Web Standards Project (WaSP)

A group of web designers and developers launch the web standards project after becoming frustrated with the way browsers implemented HTML and CSS unevenly and sporadically. The group operated for 15 years, pressuring browsers into web standards support and educating developers on how best to use them.


Google is officially incorporated by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, though the technology their new website would be based on had been in development for several years. Google follows a wave of portal-based search engines and returns to a focus on simple, text-based search. Their algorithm’s key differentiator is PageRank, which uses the back-links a webpage receives to determine its relative strength in the rankings. Started in a garage, over time, Google would grow to become one of the biggest web-based companies in the world.

Box Acid Test

CSS Samurai Todd Fahrner develops the Box Acid Test as a way of testing browsers for CSS support. The test itself is a simple webpage with a series of arranged boxes. Browsers would either render this page correctly, or fail the test. In the beginning, most browsers failed.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

Passed into law in 1998, effective as of April of 2000, and enforced by the Federal Trade Commision, COPPA provides data protections for children under the age of 14. Specifically, it restricts what kind of data can be collected from minors, as well as requiring parental consent before any data can be collected. Over the years, it has come under fire for sidestepping some of the more complex issues facing children online.

Microsoft launches its entry into the City Guide space, Mostly focused on business listings, classifieds, and local advertising, the site initially focuses on a few local test markets before expanding slowly. However, it is never able to fully gain market share in a crowded and rapidly shrinking city guide space, and eventually is acquired by competitor CitySearch in 1999.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA is signed into law, criminalizing the distribution and creation of technology intended to circumvent copyright protections. The law had been introduced a year earlier, and received bipartisan support when it was signed by President Clinton. It would soon become a source of controversy, so broadly defined that it forces many platforms to remove content from their site to avoid litigation.

AOL Acquires Netscape

In a surprising move, AOL acquires Netscape for $4.2 billion. Surprising because at the time, AOL pushed Internet Explorer, Netscape’s biggest rival. The company would later testify that they did so only under pressure from Microsoft. For Netscape, this sale marked the beginning of the end, with focus shifting  away from their browser.


Favicons are first introduced in Internet Explorer 5 so websites can display small icons next to their URL in a user’s favorite list. Browsers would eventually use favicon’s in a variety of places, though they would not become an official part of HTML standards until HTML5.


DoCoMo unveils I-Mode in Japan, a wireless Internet service integrated right into mobile phone handsets. Users can toggle between voice features and the Internet, and from there access a subset of the web. The platform kicked off what became known as keitai culture, and the web became more popular.


After the Spiderwoman listserv began to fall apart, former members of the list—led by Dori Smith—create a new mailing list. It’s purpose remains fundamentally the same, to help women connect and support one another on the web, but it’s focus is more technically grounded and education driven.

RSS 0.9

The first version of RSS is released by Netscape, still heavily influenced by the RDF format created by Ramanathan V. Guha. RSS allows publishers to syndicate their content and readers to get content from multiple sources in one place. This format would soon go through several major iterations.

Internet Explorer 5

The first Microsoft browser released to a market with a share greater than Netscape’s, Internet Explorer 5 saw many improvements from previous versions. Its speed, usability, developer technologies such as ActiveX and XMLHTTPRequest support, and wide range of Internet features made it one of the most advanced browsers on the market. When the 5.5 version was released several years later, it would also include HTML components.

Cluetrain Manifesto

A collection of authors and business analysts publish 95 theses of modern business to the web under the moniker Cluetrain Manifesto. Years before social media platforms entered the mainstream, the site is able to generate conversation through news outlets, personal websites, and digital word of mouth. It is an early example of the kind of web virality.


The free blogging tool LiveJournal is released to the world. LiveJournal allows users to create online diaries or blogs alongside some early social media and community features. Over time it introduces publishing tools, style templates and photo storage.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The W3C publishes the WCAG with 14 guidelines to help developers create accessible websites. The WCAG is actually a compilation of several other guideline documents that inspired it. Over the years, this document has been revised several times.

Quirks Mode

Internet Explorer 5 for Mac was the first browser to implement Quirks mode, a technique used to ensure that sites coded for older versions of browsers remained backwards compatible. Developers could avoid quirks mode rendering by using a standards-compliant doctype, known as a doctype-switching.

Fahrner Image Replacement

C.Z. Robertson jots down a new technique for using images to replace text that is both screen-reader friendly and standards compliant. The trick is eventually named after Todd Fahrner, a standards-advocate who had played around with the idea, and uses background images and CSS to make text accessible to screen readers, but hidden visually.


Former Blogger employee Matthew Haughey launches his own take on blogging with a community weblog. Visitors to MetaFilter could post a link and a brief description, which was used to generate conversation through threaded comments on the site. Because of its presence on the early web, and a loyal group of followers, the MetaFilter has created a largely active and productive example of an online community.


Pyra Labs, a web development studio created by Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan, releases the first version of Blogger, an early blogging tool which allows users to use a simple form to write posts that were sent to their server. Blogger was one of several tools on the early web that made web publishing simple and accessible, and helped spread blogging to a growing community of indie publishers and writers. In 2003, Google would acquire the service.


Launched by the Cuban Council as a community of designers, K1000 featured design news, techniques and showcased some of the best designs on the web. The sites and designs featured on K1000 fostered a creative exchange that inspired both novice and veteran designers on the web.


Donna Williams and Adam Powell launch Neopets, a side project of theirs that lets users raise virtual pets. Over time, Neopets would gain a bit of a life of its own, adding a fictional universe for users to explore and games for users to play, before being purchased first by Viacom and then by Jumpstart.

First Targeted Political Ad Campaign

In an attempt to engage Virginia voters during the 2000 GOP primary, candidate John McCain’s campaign launches a series of ads soliciting petition signatures from Internet users. The campaign uses voter registration data to cross-reference potential voters in that state, and ads were displayed on major websites, such as

Representational State Transfer (REST)

Roy Fielding includes the design of REST web services in his PhD dissertation for UC Irvine. It will lay dormant for a few years, but eventually pick up some steam, and ultimately become the dominant method for creating open APIs.

Y2K Bug

Y2K was a programming bug built into programming languages like COBOL which shortened dates from 1960 on to the last two digits. If left unfixed, some systems were thought to fail completely at the turn of the millennium when those first digits were needed. Through the combined efforts of programmers around the world, the bug was ultimately fixed and its Y2K’s effect was minimal to non-existing.


After the release of HTML 4.01, the W3C shifts its focus to XHTML, a standard that blends the syntax and rules from XML with the properties of HTML. XHTML strictly enforces its ruleset, which makes it interoperable, but more difficult to implement in browsers.

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)

SOAP is developed at Microsoft as a web services platform for servers and clients to communicate with one another. SOAP encodes messages in XML and transfers them over a common envelope. SOAP is action driven, meaning a separate endpoint handles each operation the server needs to make.


On May 10, 2000 people around the world on Windows PCS began receiving a message with the subject “ILOVEYOU”. If the file attached to this email was opened it would trigger a devastating virus and message the same email to everyone in your contact list. The virus spread quickly and effectively, affecting 50 million computers and forcing corporations and government agencies to shut down email altogether.

The Dot Com Peak

On March 10, 2000, the U.S. stock market index peaked at the crest of a wave of tech investment and speculation at the turn of the century. Over the next few months, the entire world would see this bubble burst, as the ripple effects of the so-called dot-com crash permeated international markets.

Internet Explorer 5 For Mac

Created at Microsoft specifically for the Mac, during a period of time when IE was bundled into Macintosh software, Tantek Çelik and his team release IE 5 for Mac. The browser is particularly noteworthy because of its full support for CSS following the W3C specification, and becomes an example for other browser to follow.


Drupal launches as a personal messaging board between college friends at the University of Antwerp. It was named wholly by accident, derived from the Dutch word for village, Dorp. Within a couple of years, its primary developer, Dries Buytaert, would evolve the software into one of the first examples of a content management system that let users create and edit content on a site without needing to directly edit HTML or code.


DeviantArt opens its doors to user submissions for Winamp skins, originally built as an extension of the DMusic online platform. By the end of the year, DeviantArt will take on a life of its own as users fill it with comics, animations, eventually becoming a central hub for art on the web.


The KDE project includes a new browser, called Konquerer, in its version 2 release. Like KDE generally, Konquerer is open source and maintained by an active community. The engine at the heart of this browser would eventually become the basis for Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome.