The HTML Tags Everybody Hated
It’s easy to forget that HTML, which is an extremely simple programming language, is actually just an exceedingly complex markup language. HTML was one of the original building blocks of the web, and its used by web developers to mark-up (or describe) a page with agreed-upon HTML tags that, when rendered by a browser, spits out a website. The agreed-upon part […]
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.
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.
Pixel Art Finds Its Home on the Web
The design community in particular has been a rather dynamic part of the fabric of the web from its earliest days. Designing for the web means understanding the constraints of the screen while simultaneously accounting for a whole host of variables, like hover states and animation and screen resolutions and network connections. It requires a […]
A collective of three designers that met in Berlin, eBoy.com 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.
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.
The History of the Browser Wars: When Netscape Met Microsoft
Let’s talk about about the “Browser Wars.” They kicked off in the mid-90s, at a time when the world was just starting to come online. The web was still a fuzzy, undefined medium. Those who did decide to visit the web for the first time found themselves standing at the precipice of a technological arms race between two behemoth […]
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.
How Dreamweaver Got Its Name
When Kevin Lynch started going around and talking to web designers, he wrote everything down. He was interested in the hurdles that designers and developers had to overcome, but he was particularly drawn to what they envisioned as the perfect web editing tool. What features, specifically, were they looking for? After a few months of collecting data, […]
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.
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.
GoTo: The Forgotten Search Engine
I’ve been digging into the history of search engines and centralized platforms lately. Mostly my goal has been to uncover what happened on the web to make privacy a commodity that is less than sacred, and intensive advertising the dominant business model. It’s easy to think that our current modus operandi (tracking scripts that follow […]
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.
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.
A Short History of WaSP and Why Web Standards Matter
This article was originally published in CSS-Tricks. In August of 2013, Aaron Gustafson posted to the WaSP blog. He had a bittersweet message for a community that he had helped lead: Thanks to the hard work of countless WaSP members and supporters (like you), Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the web as an open, accessible, and universal […]
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.
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.
In the beginning, the web had no memory. When you followed a link to a new page, everything you did on the last page was erased. There was a fresh start with every click. It was Netscape that gave the web a memory. Pretty early on, actually, when they realized there were a few issues […]
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.
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.
How We Got the Favicon
Image courtesy of Muhammad Rehan Saeed In 1999 the two largest browsers, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, were in all out war for control of the market. Looming just ahead was the release of Internet Explorer 5, in March of 1999, a release that would give users a free browser deeply integrated into the Windows operating […]
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.
Before There Were Smartphones, There Was I-Mode
In January of 1999, members of DoCoMo held a press conference in Tokyo, attended by only a handful of people. At the event, they released a teaser video for the launch of a new service. The teaser was vivid. Blobs of all colors streamed across the screen to an electronica soundtrack. This was overlaid with innocuous terms […]
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.
RSS: A Well Formed Log Entry
How would you structure a feed for syndicating blog content? Remember, it would need to be standard enough for a computer to read and parse it, but simple enough for a developer to implement. Specific enough for web publishers, blogs, podcasts and all sorts of media, but universal enough for edge cases. Not to mention well […]
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.
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.
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.
Pyra Labs co-founders Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan unveil Blogger, a tool that allowed users to create and host blogs using the Blogger service. Blogger would be the first to market with many features, such as the permalink, and attracted many users to the blog scene. 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.
The Winding Tale of Neopets
Neopets was a massively successful and inclusive digital world, but I think people focus far too much on its advertising model. There’s so much more to the site. The site spawned its own unique economic simulacrum, had a tenuous connection to Scientology, a constantly shifting design, and a dedicated and ambitious fanbase that built it […]
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.
Technocratic Panic at the Millennium and the Real Threat Beneath the Code
It’s been over seventeen years since the world ended. Or, rather, it was supposed to be The End of the World as We Know It. If that sounds like a big deal that’s because, at the time, it truly was. This is how things were supposed to go down. On January 1, 2000 at the […]
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.
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.
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.
SOAP And REST At Odds
Computer programmers like to squabble. I suppose this is true in any profession, but it is most certainly true for programmers. Don’t believe me? Just ask a programmer if you should set up your web services using SOAP or REST. Then grab a cup of coffee, because it’s going to be a while. It would […]
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, effecting 50 million computers and forcing corporations and government agencies to shut down email altogether.
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.
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.
Wikipedia: The Story of Collective Knowledge
Wikipedia is a free, online, user-edited and user-contributed encyclopedia. It is also a stupendously simple and almost inevitable idea, but has proven to be nothing short of revolutionary. Certainly, much has been made of Wikipedia over the years. It has served as a case study for the reliability of truth within crowd-sourced material, the strength […]
A free, user contributed encyclopedia, Wikipedia is launched as an offshoot of its predecessor, Nupedia. Unlike Nupedia, which demanded strict editorial guidelines for any article, Wikipedia allowed anybody to contribute or edit content, quickly amassing a large pool of crowd-sourced entries and becoming the de-facto source for information on the web.
Dreaming Big on the Open Web
The web has always belonged to all of us. That is to say its protocols and underlying technology are products of the public domain and can be used by everyone, everywhere. By design, and with prescribed purpose, the web is open. Some of the first voyagers on the web’s shifting shores believed almost unblinkingly in […]
Boing Boing gets its first website, originally as an online extension of a print zine of the same name by Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair. Over the years, Boing Boing will evolve into one of the first link blogs with a fairly steady inner group of editors that share content from across the internet mixed in with their own commentary.
Browser Upgrade Campaign
WaSP launches the Browser Upgrade Campaign, aimed at helping web users understand the importance of standards. It starts when developers begin adding banners to their site to signal to users it’s time for an upgrade. Some even redirect users with very old browsers to a new page altogether, explaining why it’s time for an upgrade.
Developer Michel Valdrighi releases a hacked together alternative to other blogging platforms, like Greymatter or Movable Type. He uses PHP and MySQL to create the platform, and makes it open source so others can contribute. After Valdrighi leaves the project, b2 is forked as WordPress.
WAVE is released by the late Dr. Len Kasday, working out of Temple University. It is similar to many other accessibility tools that come before it, except for one crucial feature: it’s release as a browser extension. The project was taken over by WebAIM in 2003 and is still in active development.
Finding Our Digital Identities: A History of Social Media
Benjamin Sun and Omar Wasow met for the first time in 1999. They had both recently struck out on the web as passionate early adopters. Wasow had just recently made a shift from running a pre-web Internet provider called New York Online to developing and designing websites for magazines like Vibe and Essence. Sun, on […]
Omar Wasow launches BlackPlanet in partnership with Benjamin Sun, CEO of Community Connect and founder of AsianAve. Though not, strictly speaking, the first social media site on the web, it is the most popular of early iterations, and its passionate community would mold the site into a template for many of the social networks that came after.
After watching Finding Forrester, Max Goldberg becomes obsessed with the line “You’re the man now, dog!”, and creates a single serving site dedicated to it. Later, Goldberg shortens the title to YTMND and allows other users to host their own single serving websites with simple tools.
The Evolution of Blogging
By 2001, the world blog had entered Internet vernacular, both as a noun and a verb. Mena Trott was one of these bloggers. Her site, A Dollar Short, went up in April of 2001. With the launch of her site, Trott aimed big. She loved blogging, and she aspired to be one of the best. So she set […]
Mena and Ben Trott launch Moveable Type, a tool that allows users to easily set up their own blog. The software puts an emphasis on customization, and even early on lets users add metadata and change their website’s style, drawing a whole new group of users to the blogging community.
Archiving the Web
If I were to reach into the history of the world to find some kind of precedent for the World Wide Web, I might pull out the Library of Alexandria. It was built circa 300 B.C. by the ancient Greeks, and it’s goal was ambitious if not distinct: to house the collective knowledge of everything […]
The Wayback Machine
The Wayback Machine launches as the web archiving piece of the Internet Archive that allows users to view, browse and search through timestamped versions of websites by date. Each snapshot of the Internet Archive is available through the Wayback Machine, which crawls the web for new data 24/7.