The History of the Web logo

Unraveling the web's story

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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 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.

Web Inspector

Timothy Hatcher officially checks in a new feature, known as Web Inspector, into the Webkit rendering engine project. It is the result of a over a year of work, and provides tools for developers to easily inspect their HTML and CSS code, as well as debug JavaScript. It also comes with an “Inspect Element” feature, which lets developers quickly jump to a highlighted section on their webpage.

YUI Library

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.

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!


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.


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.

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.


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.


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 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.

The Financial Times Introduces a Metered Model

The Financial Times relaunch features what would be referred to as the “metered model” for online content distribution. Visitors to the site were given a certain number of free articles that they can read each month. After that, a paywall was lifted until the end of the month. The goal of the metered model, which would become widely adopted, was to prompt users to become digital subscribers.


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, 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.


A group of game designers operating under the company Alamofire raises a large round of funding for their location-based social app Gowalla ahead of its official release at SXSW festival in March. Gowalla would be one of the first, and most successful, check-in apps on the market before it is eventually acquired by Facebook in 2011. Framework

Nathan Smith releases a simple 12 (and later 16) column CSS grid system, based on a standard width of 960 pixels. By setting strict boundaries for the framework, he is able to keep the size of the CSS small while accounting for cross-browser support.


After working on their side project for close to a year, a group of developers launch the GitHub website, a web-based interface for hosting and providing additional features around version-controlled codebases. Within a year, the service would have close to 50,000 code repositories, and become a boon for open sourced, collaborative development.

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.

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.

Pattern Portfolios

While working at the web agency Clearleft, Natalie Downe begins to incorporate pattern portfolios, a way of organizing reusable markup patterns and CSS into the web development process, a concept that would later be refined and developed at Clearleft and elsewhere.


Foursquare officially launches their iPhone mobile application, which had been in development for some time. Created by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, Foursquare lets users check-in at different locations in their town or city, and share reviews, lists, and statuses with friends in the area. Though it begins in New York City, it soon spreads around the world goes through several subsequent iterations.


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 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.


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.

The World Wide Web Foundation

Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Bratt formally announce the Web Foundation, an idea that had been in the works for some time. At launch, the goal of the foundation is “leading transformative programs to advance the Web as a medium that empowers people to bring positive change.” Over the years, it has launched several far-reaching initiatives to provide equal and safe access to the web worldwide.


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.


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 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.

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.

Style Tiles

Samantha Warren publishes a post to her blog introducing a technique she calls Style Tiles, a way to group web design patterns meaningfully during the client discovery and prototyping phase of a web development project.


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.

Web Components

Alex Russell—representing his work via Google with the W3C and TC39—introduces Web Components on a public stage for the first time. They make possible the creation of custom HTML elements through a combination of familiar web technologies, such as CSS and JavaScript, as well as novel browser features like the Shadow DOM and HTML templates. The specification and implementation would go through years of iteration before it was formally adopted by browsers.


Developers at Twitter launch Blueprint, later renamed to Bootstrap, an open source front-end framework for developing component based websites and layouts. The library would gain rapid support on the code repository service GitHub and become widely adopted, evolving to accommodate a larger feature set.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Progressive Web Apps

Alex Russell publishes a blog post that that gives a name to several new browser features into a framework for building advanced applications on the web. While attempts had been made at various times to provide application-like functionality to the web, PWA’s represent the first native, built-in effort.

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.

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.


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.