2002

Last.fm

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.

Meetup.com

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.

RSS 2.0

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.

Mozilla Phoenix

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.

2003

Safari

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.

Cynthia Says

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.

WordPress

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.

LinkedIn

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.

Mozilla Foundation

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.

Myspace

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.

Delicious

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.

2004

Orkut

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.

Basecamp

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.

Flickr

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 Firefox

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.

CSS Sprites

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

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

Cameron Adams publishes a new technique on his blog which uses Javascript to detect the resolution of a site visitor’s monitor, and swap out different stylesheets based on the result. This allows designers to change the layout of their site based on resolution, and foreshadows the techniques of responsive web design.

Digg

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.

Vimeo

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.

2005

Google Maps

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.

YouTube

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.

Ajax

Jesse James Garrett coins Ajax (short for Asynchronous Javascript and XML) to describe the use of Javascript to retrieve data from a server and display it on a page without a page refresh. Though the technique had already been in use for some time, Garrett officially codified the methodology.

Prototype

Sam Stephenson writes the first version of Prototype, one of the earliest examples of a Javascript framework. Prototype was built with the goal of both bringing object-oriented programming to the Javascript language, and extending Javascript functionality to add features that it lacked.

Webkit

Apple open sources their browser engine, which consists of two main components, the WebCore rendering engine and the JavaScriptCore JavaScript engine. Though used only by Apple at the time, Webkit would soon become the most popular browser engine thanks to its adoption by Google and use on mobile devices.

Reddit

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.

Opera Mini

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

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.

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.

2006

Firebug

Joe Hewitt, one of the creators of Firefox, releases an early version of his debugging tool, the first of its kind meant for monitoring HTML, CSS and JavaScript right in the browser. Hewitt decides early on to open source his project. As a result, the project is led by several different people over the years, along with a steady stream of contributors, before it is discontinued in 2017

jQuery

jQuery is unveiled by John Resig at BarCamp NYC, an informal web developer meetup. Dubbed with the tagline “New Wave Javascript,” jQuery’s major departure from other Javascript libraries is its introduction of a new API layered on top of existing Javascript methods which added to but did not extend the core Javascript language.

The 9

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!

MooTools

A later addition to the Javascript lineup, MooTools is initially released as a lightweight version of Prototype. It soon evolves into a framework in its own right and, at its peak, counts itself among the most popular. It builds on the object-oriented principles of Prototype and, like its predecessor, extends existing Javascript primitives to build out not yet released features.

100 Million Websites

The web reaches 100 million total websites, a number that would continue to grow exponentially over the next decade.

2007

iPhone

Steve Jobs and Apple unveil the iPhone at Macworld. It is notable for a number of its technological achievements, not the least of which is a full-featured mobile web browser with the latest HTML and CSS support. Over the years, the iPhone would both influence and be influenced by the web’s development.

FunnyOrDie.com

SNL alum Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, along with Mark Kvamme and Chris Henchy launch the first version of Funny or Die, a comedy video site that lets users upload and vote on videos. The site is launched with a single video, starring Ferrell. It’s irreverent humor and amateur approach bring people flooding to the site immediately.

Coda

Developed by Panic Software, Coda integrates several disparate tools into a single web editing tool. The software includes access to FTP, a code editor, a command line utility and reference material, all bundled together. The tool becomes a favorite among designers and developers working on several sites at once, in small teams or by themselves.

FFFFOUND!

A side project of Japanese web design agency Tha, FFFFOUND! sends out invites to a handful of users. FFFFOUND! allows users to post images from across the web, and connect them with other pictures through likes and comments. FFFFOUND! would soon gather a loyal following of users looking for inspiration or art.

KompoZer

KompoZer offers an open source WYSIWYG web editing alternative by developer Fabien Cazenave, with a special emphasis on standards-compliant output. Though not advanced as other tools out there, KompoZer does sport integrated HTML validation tools and advanced CSS support. It will eventually be more or less discontinued in 2011.

2008

Ushahidi

A small team launches Ushahidi, an open-source, crowd-sourcing application that allows people to submit reports which are aggregated in a map view. It was originally created in the wake of a crisis after the 2007 Kenyan election, but has since been used all over the world and has been critical in collecting data during several conflicts.

Single Serving Sites

Jason Kottke gives a name to sites that have a single purpose and a URL that speaks for itself. Kottke was inspired by BarackObamaIsYourNewBicycle.com, and wrote an article gathering similar  examples. From there, the phenomena of single serving sites only grew as more and more were added to the web.

Google Chrome

Google releases a browser of their own, focused on speed. It’s name derives from the frame around a browser, which Google was able to simplify drastically. In a few short months it would have tens of millions of users and overtake the market by the beginning of the next decade.

Flexible Web Design

Zoe Gillenwater publishes her book, Flexible Web Design: Creating Liquid and Elastic Layouts with CSS, a compilation of tutorials and techniques for approaching liquid grids and elastic web design. The book becomes a handbook for designers looking to make a switch to more flexible designs.

2009

The Archive Team

Jason Scott rounds up a group of volunteers to help download and archive all of Geocities before it is deleted. In the wake of their successful recovery of Geocities, Scott forms the Archive Team to support a collective archiving effort whenever a site is threatened by deletion.

Node.js

Ryan Dahl releases Node.js, which uses Google’s V8 JavaScript engine to make it possible to execute JavaScript on the server, rather than strictly in the browser. Though server-side JavaScript had been attempted in the past, the maturity of the language combined with Node’s high performance made it popular for web developers. Node.js would truly take off several months later, after a demo at JSConf.

Pinboard

Pinboard is launched as a lightweight competitor to Delicious by Maciej Cegłowski and Peter Gadjokov (one of Delicious’ co-founders), with a focus on private sharing and a focused feature set. When Pinboard goes up, it’s price is $3, which increases a fraction of a cent each time a user signs up.

Typekit

Small Batch launches Typekit at a time when web fonts in browsers are spotty and uneven. Typekit allows font foundries to sell digital licenses directly to web developers, and gives developers an easy way to embed them on their site. In 2011, Typekit will be bought by Adobe.

Internet Explorer 8

IE8 brought with it major improvements in web standards support and security, and was largely celebrated for its advancements. It also was the first browser to support version targeting, allowing developers to toggle which version of IE to render their page in, including older versions, for compatibility reasons.

2010

Pinterest

After several several iterations and various products Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra launch a spin-off of one of their projects known as Pinterest, a site that lets users collect  and share images and links on interactive digital bulletin boards. Though slower to grow than other social networks, it is one of the first to embrace a dedicated mobile experience.

WOFF File Format

The Web Open Font Format specification is officially submitted to the W3C as an open source format built for the web. WOFF files are specifically formatted and compressed so that file sizes are small and embeddable. One by one, browsers begin implementing the WOFF format.

Responsive Web Design

Ethan Marcotte publishes an article in A List Apart titled “Responsive Web Design” that introduces a revolutionary new approach to CSS layout on mobile devices. It merges fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries to create layouts that respond to the width of the browser. Within a couple of years, responsive web design will become the industry standard.

Backbone.js

The first version of the Backbone.js web framework, based on the model view presenter methodology, is released. Originally created to help creators manage large and unwieldy Javascript codebases, Backbone becomes known as a lightweight solution for creating single page applications.

AngularJS

AngularJS is open sourced, though it had been in development for some time by software engineer Miško Hevery. AngularJS helps web designers create single page applications using data binding directly in HTML templates. It also provides helpers for connecting with a server, manipulating data and managing business logic.

2011

Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant creates the non-profit organization Black Girls Code with the goal of getting young minority women excited about computer engineering. The organization runs after school classes, summer camps, and weekend workshops for girls aged 7 to 16, and has programs across the United States.

mlkshk

mlkshk is officially launched by husband and wife Amber Costley and Andre Torrez. It allows users to post their favorite images from the web, and organize them into topics-based “shakes.” Somewhere between a social network and a community, mlkshk offered users a place to share what they loved and discover something new.

CSS Modules

With the release of CSS3, CSS was divided into several different specifications known as “modules”. Each module represented a subset of CSS, such as colors or web fonts, and is operated and maintained by an independent working group, so that each can advance at its own pace.

Adaptive Images

Before even responsive design, there were many proposals for how to support lightweight images on mobile devices, while still keeping desktop images crisp and clear. Adaptive images offloaded that work to the server, and automatically resized image on the fly to always deliver an optimized image.

SOPA

U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith introduces a new bill, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), into Congress that is meant to expand the powers of the United States beyond its borders to prevent copyright infringement but is invasive and draconian in its proposed implementation. A similar bill, PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is soon introduced in the Senate.

2012

The Web Goes on Strike

As a way of protesting SOPA and PIPA, over 7,000 sites “went on strike.” Some sites, like Wikipedia and Reddit, removed their content completely and replaced it with information about how to stop the new laws. Other sites simply added banners or darkened their designs. The protest was successful, and was one of the main reasons the legislation was stopped.

HTML Splits In Two

After working together for a few years, the W3C and WHATWG officially agree to approach HTML differently. The W3C would, from time to time, record a “snapshot” and continue to increment versions of HTML (5, 6, etc). The WHATWG, on the other hand, would adopt a single “living standard,” just called HTML.

The Picture Element

The Responsive Images Community Group (RICG) makes a final call for feedback on their proposed specification for the picture element, after years of work and a whole lot of back and forth between standards making organizations and the community. The brand new HTML element allows for lightweight images to be served to mobile browsers.

2013

React

Developers at Facebook release React, a framework for building user interfaces on the web. Originally inspired by the PHP framework XHP, React embraces the idea of components, and allows users to create individual components which respond and automatically update based on data and content changes.

WaSP Shuts Down

After 15 years of working with browsers and developers on better standards support, the Web Standards Project (WaSP) officially shuts down. With browsers in tune with the standards process and developers understanding their value, the organization is simply no longer needed.

Blink

Forked from the Webkit project, the Blink rendering engine powers Chromium based browsers including Google Chrome. It’s codebase originates from Webkit, but it handles multiprocessing tasks and includes the V8 JavaScript engine.

2014

Vue.js

Evan You launches Vue.js, a web framework for building single page applications. Like other frameworks, it makes use of data binding, the model-view-controller pattern and client-side routing. But Vue is broken up into modules, so that developers could use whatever piece of the framework they want.

1 Billion Websites

The web crosses over the 1 billion websites mark, only to actually fall back beneath it towards the end of 2014, only to cross the number once again in 2015.

HTML5 Official Recommendation

HTML5 is formally made a recommendation by the W3C. HTML5 adds new syntactic elements and attributes, deeper APIs, and more access to native features. It also includes much broader support for multimedia and web graphics with elements like video and canvas.

2015

451: Unavailable for Legal Reasons

The IETF officially approves status code 451, which is used to indicate a site is being blocked for legal reasons, typically in the case of censorship. The three digit number is a nod to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

2016

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The EU adopts GDPR as a successor to the Data Protection Directive with further restrictions to the types of personally identifiable information that can be collected online. It specifically requires that websites disclose any data that has been collected and limits how long data can be held. It also enforces a way for users to request their personal data to be completely erased.

2017

Place

An April Fools joke launched by Reddit, Place invites users to change pixels on a large, shared grid. But each user can only edit a single pixel every 5 minutes, meaning cooperation and a massive team effort followed the three days the site was in operation.

Adobe Announces the End of Flash

Adobe announces that as of 2020, they will stop supporting and updating Flash software and players. After the release of the iPhone and other mobile devices sans Flash, much of the web moved away from the technology, though it is still frequently used by indie animators and game developers.