Information Management, a Proposal
While working at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee first comes up with the idea for the World Wide Web. To pitch it, he submits a proposal for organizing scientific documents to his employers titled “Information Management, a Proposal.” In this proposal, Berners-Lee sketches out what the web will become, including early versions of the HTTP protocol and HTML.
Tim Berners-Lee releases WorldWideWeb (later Nexus) on Christmas day, the first ever browser for the web. It is far from primitive, featuring a built-in HTML editor alongside graphical features. However, it is only available on NeXT machines and fails to gain much traction.
Engineers at the University of Minnesota develop Gopher, a new internet protocol and early competitor to the web. Gopher organizes documents using a tight hierarchy that can be accessed through Gopher clients, similar to web browsers.
Line Mode Browser
Nicola Pellow finishes work on the Line Mode Browser, a text only CLI-based browser for accessing the web. Because of its simplicity, the browser could be easily ported to a variety of operating systems making it incredibly popular despite a limited feature set.
“Surf the Net”
Brendan Kehoe, while inquiring about a troublesome user on a Usenet newsgroup, coins the phrase “net-surfing.” Over time, surfing the net, will become a more or less common idiom.
WWW Virtual Library
In order to keep tabs on new websites, Tim Berners-Lee creates a hypertext list on the CERN site he calls the WWW Virtual Library. To get on the list, site owners could personally email Berners-Lee their link, and he would add it. The Library would later move to its own site.
Tim Berners-Lee Announces the WWW
Berners-Lee, responding to a thread on the
alt.hypertext Usenet newsgroup, publicly announces the World Wide Web project for the first time. In the coming months, Berners-Lee would use other newsgroups to help spread word about the web.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
Tim Berners-Lee publicly links to a draft of HTML on the www-talk mailing list. HTML is a hypertext markup language used by developers to create websites, and is the foundation of the WWW. The language itself was influenced by similar efforts like SGML, but has since evolved into a lot more.
The HTTP Protocol
As part of his specification for the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee introduces HTTP as a way for clients (web browsers) to communicate with servers. The first draft, HTTP v0.9, includes only one method, a GET request, used by clients as a read-only way to retrieve web pages.
BBEdit releases the first version of their text editor with the unique slogan “It doesn’t suck.” A few years later, BBEdit 4.0 would make HTML editing a core feature, with support for syntax highlighting and uploading directly to a web server.
Veronica Search Engine
Veronica is created as a new Gopher server type specifically built for indexing and searching other Gopher servers. Veronica was able to index results from thousands of servers at time, and translate a text based search into a list of available documents.
Originally known as the Common Library, libwww offers a programatic foundation for creating browsers. Tim Berners-Lee salvages a lot of code from his WorldWideWeb browser in order to create the package, and releases it open source to a growing web community. It would aid in the creation of over half a dozen browsers in under a year.
NCSA releases Mosaic version 1.0, developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina. It features inline multimedia, an easy to use GUI, and visual elements for web designers to make use of. Soon after launch, Mosaic would become the most popular browser on the market.
NCSA What’s New
NCSA, the company behind Mosaic, creates What’s New, a webpage that highlights the most popular new sites updated every weekday. The page is added to the Mosaic browser homepage and receives quite a bit of traffic.
World Web Wanderer first deployed
Using web crawling technology he invented, Matthew Gray develops the World Wide Web Wanderer. The WWWW collects data about websites and stores it in a single database called the Wandex, offering some search-like functionality and a snapshot of the web’s global usage and spread.
Global Network Navigator
Often referred to as the web’s first commercial publication, GNN is an interactive guide to the web that contains news stories and links to popular sites. It is updated regularly and would later become the first site to experiment with advertising.
Oscar Nierstrasz publishes W3Catalog. The website is able to automatically compile several curated lists, like What’s New and the WWW Virtual Library, into one place using a web scraper built by Nierstrasz.
Dave Raggett publishes HTML+, a specification that extends HTML which had, at the time, grown stagnant. Included in HTML+ are many features that had already been implemented by browsers, such as tables and advanced forms. HTML+ would go on as an inspiration for HTML 3.2.
HoTMeTaL enters the market as one of the first WYSIWYG editors created specifically for the web. The software is a hybrid of a text and visual editor, that lets users edit a document using custom styles, while still maintaining semantic HTML.
The earliest example of a single serving website, Jeff Abrahamson quietly launches Purple.com. The site is purple. Just purple. Though it originally is released with a background color of #DD00FF, this is later changed to #7D26CD to make the site more “purple” looking.
Cyberia, widely regarded as the first official Internet café, opens its doors in London. The space is originally intended as a space for women to learn about the Internet, but it is open to all. The idea catches fire, and cyber café’s open up all over the world.
W3C Interactive Talk
The W3C releases Interactive Talk, a form based discussion system. Interactive Talk is the first attempt at creating software that allows for two way conversation and is used mostly internally at the W3C. In the years to come, it would become the template for forums and message board software.
The first browser sold by Netscape Communications, Netscape Navigator is released to wide and critical appeal. It would eventually become the most popular browser in the world, until it is surpassed by Microsoft during the Browser Wars.
Wired Magazine‘s unveils its first online presence Hotwired.com, which would become the first commercial online magazine. The site’s design, from the very first version, sits on the cutting edge, and is redesigned on an almost yearly basis.
As a sort of counterbalance to the techno-idealist view of Hotwired magazine, Stefanie Syman and Steven Johnson start Feed, a web zine with thoughtful, in-depth pieces about news, the tech scene and culture. Feed joins Automatic Media in 2000, and officially closes its doors in 2001.
Batman Forever Site
Batman Forever represents one of the first major marketing and visual design efforts on the web. The site features a few experimental technologies, such as message boards, downloadable videos and an animated intro.
The Internet Tidal Wave
In a memo sent to all employees, Bill Gates reverses his previous opinion of the Internet, making it the center of Microsoft’s future. In the months following the memo, Microsoft would launch their first web browser, Internet Explorer.
One of the first online communities, Tom Fulp launches Newgrounds as a simple online extension of his in-print zine. In 2002, Fulp would open Newgrounds to user submissions via the Portal, and soon after become the first site to host creative animations and videos from a strong following.
Though still in its first year as a company, Netscape goes public to soaring stock prices and a boosted valuation. Not long after, Netscape Navigator 2.0 is released which goes on to claim 75% of the browser market.
Internet Explorer 1.0
In order to compete with Netscape, Microsoft enters the market with a browser of their own. In its first version, Internet Explorer is mostly licensed code from Spyglass Mosaic, though this is eventually rewritten. It lacked crucial features, but subsequent versions of Internet Explorer would see marked improvements.
Suck quietly launches as an online zine that embraces the weird world of the tech scene. Each day, creators Joey Anuff and Carl Steadman replace the homepage with a new quippy article. The site is bought by Hotwired, then sold to Lycos, and eventually becomes a part of Automatic Media.
Pierre Omidyar carves out a small section on his site for auctioning stuff off called AuctionWeb. The first item he lists personally is a broken laser pointer that is snatched up in no time. By 1997, AuctionWeb will have moved to its own domain name and redubbed: eBay.
Netly News, an online publication and part of the emerging web zine scene, gets its start as part of Time Incorporated. It is launched by Josh Quittner, who uses the site to dive into issues of tech and tech culture.
HTML 2.0 is published as IETF RFC 1866, and includes elements from previous iterations of HTML specifications alongside some brand new ones. It would remain the latest specification until January of 1997.
Adobe enters the editor scene with PageMill, a visual tool for creating websites. Originally, PageMill offers basic layout and content editing, but starting in version 2.0, grows to include a robust table and frames editor and a host of advanced visual features.
Microsoft Acquires FrontPage
Microsoft acquires FrontPage web authoring software from Vermeer. It is soon incorporated into Microsoft Office Suite. It would go on to be a leading web publishing tool, with a user friendly interface that tucked away code and made creating websites just as easy as drafting a Word document.
HTML Editorial Review Board
After the HTML standard languishes at IETF, the W3C brings the HTML specification in-house and forms a review board to oversee its development. This group would go on to publish HTML 3.2, a major step forward and a consolidation of several competing standards.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
The Web Accessibility Initiative, an effort by the W3C to improve web accessibility, officially kicks off. The WAI is responsible for the publication of several guidelines (WCAG) as well as overseeing improvements to accessibility in web standards and legislation.
Creating Killer Websites
David Siegel writes Creating Killer Websites, a book that advocates for visual design over strict adherence to web standards. In it, Siegel demonstrates how to use tables and other HTML hacks to layout grids and design websites. After the book is published, these techniques become more mainstream.
The GoLive editor is launched for the Macintosh operating system. It is one of the first editors to rely heavily on a drag and drop interface for building websites. It also supports proprietary Netscape tags, such as custom fonts and background colors.
Macromedia acquires FutureWave software, along with their web animation tool and embedded player, FutureSplash Animator. They rename this software Flash and begin implementing new features to make it more appealing to developers. Flash would inspire a new wave of web design that focused on catchy animations, website intros and interactivity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.