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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ported from the in-progress Firefox browser and ported to the Mac, several Netscape employees release Chimera, later renamed to Camino. Camino is the first Mac browser built using the lightning fast Cocoa API, and represents a step towards native mac browsing that would later be replicated in Safari. It was discontinued in 2012.
Last.fm merged two projects, a personalized web radio and a music listening history tracker known as Audioscrobbler, into a single site. It offered ways for users to connect via music preferences, and to discover new music through a radio informed by the tastes of one’s digital friends. In 2007, it would be acquired by CBS and remove many of its streaming features.
Doctype Switching and the Box Model Hack
While developing IE5 for Mac, Tantek Çelik introduces doctype switching, allowing web developers to define which CSS box model to use in modern browsers. To polyfill older browsers, he creates the Box Model Hack, which uses some CSS to define widths for both box models in the same definition.
Named as a combination of “Napster” and “friend” by creator Jonathan Abrams, Friendster launches as one of the earliest social networks with broad and general appeal. It’s initial intent is to help people connect their offline friends to their online ones, but it quickly gathered millions of members before eventually being subsumed by larger rival MySpace.
Meetup launches with a small, five-person team as a site that sets up spontaneous meetings voted on by a group of people with similar interests. It will soon gain steam during the primary campaign of Howard Dean, when it is used as a political organizing tool around the country, bringing over a hundred thousand people to the site. In 2017, it would be acquired by WeWork.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon unveils a set of tools for developers, including an XML API, and calls it Amazon Web Services. At first, these tools allow developers to pull data from Amazon to use on their own site, but it will slowly evolve to become a complete solution for cloud infrastructure and hosting on the web.
Semantic Wired Redesign
Developers and designers at Wired magazine launch a brand new version of their website with a standards based layout using semantic HTML and CSS. At a time when standards were inconsistent, Wired established an impressive precedent for other web designers to follow.
Wired and ESPN Redesign
Wired and ESPN launch standards-based redesigns just a few months apart, building on the work being down at the Web Standards Project and providing a strong, at-scale example of using CSS for advanced web page layout.
After several years of in-fighting by members of the web community, Dave Winer releases a second version of RSS which adds some minor improvements to the format. After it is released, the New York Times and other publishers syndicate their content with RSS, but backlash from the community leads to the creation of Atom.
After years as an experimental branch of Netscape Navigator, Phoenix is unveiled to the Mozilla open source community. Phoenix was a complete rewrite of the existing browser, and was faster, lighter and included the latest web standards.
Apple releases its second ever browser attempt. It would allow Macs to ship with a native browser, and end their relationship with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It uses a little known open source browser engine known as KHTML, which will eventually transform into Webkit.
HiSoftware releases the tool Cynthia Says, named for accessibility expert and pioneer Cynthia Waddell. The Cynthia Says webpage allows for developers to enter in a webpage and get a full report about the accessibility of their site. Each report offered educational resources about the issue, as well as a list of potential solutions.
Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little create a fork of the popular blogging platform known as b2, creating the foundation of software that would eventually become WordPress. WordPress would continue to grow and eventually become a full content management system that can be installed on a users server complete with an administration panel, themes and installable plugins.
A group of tech entrepreneurs, including several Paypal alumni, launch the first version of professional development focused social network LinkedIn. Unlike other social media platforms, the site targets an older, business-focused demographic looking to increase their professional network. It is almost immediately backed by a surge of venture capital.
CSS Zen Garden
Dave Shea launches CSS Zen Garden. The garden is a collection of user contributed webpages, all with the same HTML, but each with a different CSS stylesheet. The examples on Shea’s site help push the web standards movement forward, and convinces many of the strength of CSS.
Designing with Web Standards
New Riders Press publishes Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman, a handbook that helps designers transition from table-based hacks to HTML and CSS based designs. It offers a pragmatic approach for getting started with web standards and acts as a jumping off point for a lot of web designers.
Atom Syndication Format
After RSS went unchanged for several years, some members of the web community decided to create a new syndication format that was better suited to the growing needs of the web. Atom is released after a few months of discussion on a public wiki, and the format eventually becomes and IETF standard.
The Mozilla Organization is spun off into a non-profit called the Mozilla Foundation. The group had been operating from within Netscape for some time, but making the organization independent ensured it could continue to operate even if Netscape didn’t.
A team at eUniverse unveils Myspace, a social network modeled after Friendster, but with loftier goals in mind. Rather than limit users to connections from real life, Myspace opened the door for a new generation of users to find and connect with digital friends through new digital identities. Myspace would eventually become the most popular site on the web, sell to News Corp for 580 million dollars, before eventually shutting down.
Joshua Schachter and Peter Gadjokov launch Delicious, a social bookmarking platform. Delicious is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the introduction of tags, easily searchable keywords attached by the user to every bookmark. In 2005, they would be acquired by Yahoo and eventually change hands a few more times.
Sliding Doors of CSS
Douglas Bowman writes about a new CSS technique that takes advantage of layered background images to create flexible and continuous image-based backgrounds. Bowman uses tabbed navigation for his example, but the technique quickly becomes the basis for unique web designs.
Orkut Büyükkökten launches his social networking platform, Orkut, a project he had developed independently during his time working for Google. It rose to popularity primarily through its devoted users in Brazil and India. It’s features were not unlike those in Friendster or Myspace, but allowed users to organize themselves into a number of so-called “communities.” It was closed in 2014.
Originally conceived as an internal tool to help manage clients, 37signals launches Basecamp, a platform that helps agencies store contacts, track leads, and gather feedback. It is impressively advanced, built using Ruby on Rails, and takes off soon after its release.
Originally a small feature of the massively multiplayer Game Neverending, Flickr is unveiled to the public by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. The site allows users to share photos with one another, and like, share, and comment on one another’s photos.
Mozilla releases it’s new browser, Firefox, after working on its development for almost four years. An open source project, Firefox introduces the latest web standards, and includes the new Gecko layout engine. It represented one of the first major browser advancements in quite some time.
Dave Shea writes an article for A List Apart outlining a technique, adapted from 2D game design, for organizing background images in a single file, and then using the CSS
background-position property to retrieve them. This makes web pages more performant and easier to manage.
Gmail is launched to private invites after three years of development. Initially created by Paul Bucheit as an almost skunkworks project, Gmail offered more storage and better search than its competitors, all built around an application-like experience. The April Fools day joke is Sergey Brin’s idea.
W3C Web Applications Workshop
Adobe convenes W3C’s Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents to discuss the future of web applications. The group votes against extending HTML in favor of the much stricter standard XHTML. After the meeting, frustrated dissenters will create the WHATWG.
Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) Founded
Representatives from Mozilla and Opera, led by Ian Hickson, form the WHATWG as a response to the direction of the W3C. The new standards body begins with a mailing list and simple charter to discuss how to improve the HTML markup language.
Resolution Dependent Layout
Kevin Rose, Owen Byrne, Ron Gorodetzky, and Jay Adelson create Digg, a link sharing site that lets users share articles from the Internet which other users can either “digg” or “bury”. The site is a bit of a Silicon Valley darling and quickly secures a strong following and funding, only to fade away years later, in 2012.
Two CollegeHumor employees launch the Vimeo video streaming site as a way of sharing and tagging videos from the site. Though launched at the same time as YouTube, Vimeo’s focus is on curated content and high definition videos. It was acquired by IAC at the same time as CollegeHumor.
First Viral Video
Gary Brolsma publishes “Numa Numa,” which would soon become the web’s first viral video, on Newgrounds. The video features a small clip of Brolsma dancing along to “Dragostea Din Tei” on his webcam, but it’s low-quality authenticity is enough to make it spread out far across the web.
Google Maps leaks out to the Slashdot community a day early, while still in beta. The application renders maps tile by tile, allowing users to scrub through or zoom out using a mouse. In its first release, only North America was represented, a major complaint from the community.
Former Paypal employees Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim launch their video sharing platform YouTube. Though it’s capabilities are somewhat limited, eventually YouTube would become the most popular video sharing site on the web. Even early on, it makes videos easy to upload, and includes a cross-platform video player.
Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian create Reddit as part of the inaugural batch at Y Combinator. It’s goal was to become the “front page of the Internet,” a goal that it has come close to reaching over the years, with features like post karma and subreddits.
Launched as a beta project in conjunction with the Norweigian television station TV 2, Opera Mini could be downloaded to any phone and give that phone instant access to the web. Opera Mini makes use of a proxy server, downloading, optimizing and caching requested web pages before they sent are sent back to users, saving on bandwidth and increasing speed and reliability.
Million Dollar Homepage
Launched by Alex Tew, the Million Dollar Homepage lays out a grid of a million pixels, and sells each to advertisers for a dollar. The site is an early example of an Internet phenomenon that spreads quickly to millions of users.
Pandora Radio launches to the public after a beta period. It is built on top of the Music Genome project created by Tim Westgreen, Jon Kraft, and Will Glaster. The project mapped music according to an algorithm developed by Westgreen that divided music into dozens of categories and linked them together. The radio used that algorithm to create a personalized radio that would eventually reach hundreds of millions of users.
After several iterations and a brief beta period, Club Penguin is released to the general public. Its three founders used it to create something they always wanted for their own kids: a safe place for kids to have fun and interact online. In 2007, it would be sold to Disney, who owns the brand to this day (though the site has been taken offline).
Ruby on Rails
David Heinemeier Hansson creates Ruby on Rails, a Ruby framework that includes tools to quickly develop web applications. The framework is an outgrowth of Hansson’s work on the Basecamp product, and it is released alongside a 15 minute demo video and thorough documentation, helping to bolster its success.
Yet Another Multicolumn Layout
Dirk Jesse releases his grid framework, often referred to as YAML for short. The tool allows developers to build cross-browser web layouts quickly and effectively, without requiring duplicate or boilerplate code.
Yahoo! publishes their open source User Interface Library, a set of tools and utilities for building dynamic applications, used internally by the Yahoo! development team. Over the years, it would become a standard for framework and component-based development, and form the basis of an expansive programming community.
Yahoo! launches a daily video series with a list of the nine best websites or web videos for the day. It is hosted by Maria Sansone. The show runs five days a week for several years before it is eventually cancelled by Yahoo!
100 Million Websites
The web reaches 100 million total websites, a number that would continue to grow exponentially over the next decade.