Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS)
Thinking Machines Inc. develops a new Internet protocol dubbed WAIS. Users can download a WAIS client to search through an array of distributed servers and access the documents stored there. The protocol supports fuzzy searching, custom tailored results, and decentralized data storage, but ultimately loses out to the web.
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.
Col Needham publishes a few Unix scripts to a Usenet group for browsing and searching through a user generated index of movie lists subdivided into several categories. He calls it the rec.arts.movies movies database. Years later, Needham and a few others would move the interface online and incorporate officially as IMDb.
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.
The First Website
Tim Berners-Lee publishes the first website as a way of both demonstrating what the web was, and explaining it’s purpose. It ran off of Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer and included a list of links to other relevant CERN documents. It would be the point of discovery for many early web adopters.
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.
A team at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory launches the first web server and website in the United States at slac.stanford.edu. The website is notable for its connection to the SPIRES-HEP database, a digital repository of tens of thousands of particle physics papers that gave instant utility to a still incipient web.
After helping to launch the website of SLAC, Louise Addis forms the WWW Wizards group. The group would go through a few name changes over the next few years, but they were crucial in helping users understand how the web worked, both at Stanford and around the world through active development contributions and support of web creators.
Notable as the first browser developed outside of CERN, ViolaWWW was a browser developed by Pei-Yuan Wei while working at UCLA Berkley. The browser was an experiment, meant to demonstrate the power of Wei’s scripting language, Viola, the browser was among the first to render tables, scriptable objects, and stylesheets and would serve as a template for many of the browsers released in subsequent years.
Tim Berners-Lee presents the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), later renamed to the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), to the IETF. The URL is one of the founding technologies of the web, and is a standards that dictates how web page addresses are constructed, allowing browsers to easily connect to documents across the decentralized network.
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.
Lynx was a text only browser created by programmers at the University of Kansas. Though it ran entirely inside of a terminal, and therefore had a higher than average barrier to entry, it nevertheless provided users with basic formatting and keyboard shortcuts for navigating the web. One of its creators, Lou Montulli, would later become one of the founding members of the Netscape team.
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.
Originally known as simply MacWWW, Robert Calliau and Nicola Pellow develop the first browser for the Mac at CERN in 1992. Version 1.0 would officially be released a year later, though popularity would quickly wane once Mosaic released a Mac version of their browser.
Tony Johnson, a researcher at SLAC, develops MidasWWW. It runs on Unix machines and is not dissimilar from other graphical browsers at the time with one notable difference. It could display PDF documents in browser, a key feature for scientists and academics hoping to browse the web for research papers.
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.
CERN puts the Web in the public domain
At the urging of Berners-Lee and his team, and thanks in part to the downturn of Gopher after they began charging for their protocol and software, CERN officially enters the World Wide Web into the public domain, making it freely available to anyone. It is perhaps the single most impactful decision made on behalf of the web, and enabled an entire generation of programmers to extend it, build with it, and spread it.
Thomas R Bruce publicly announces his plans for the release of the first ever Windows graphical browser. As a lawyer himself, Bruce created the browser for other lawyers and focused on making it as easy to install as possible. In the early days of the web, it was a popular choice for Windows users.
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.
World Wide Web Wizards Workshop
A three day conference aimed at bringing together the greatest minds on the web and organized by Dale Dougherty at the O’Reilly offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the first time that Tim Berners-Lee shared his idea for a web consortium, and included discussions about the future of web technologies and the ideological aim of the web project.
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.
World Wide Web Worm
Oliver McBryan develops the World Wide Web Worm (WWWW), one of the web’s first search engines. Most search engines of the time were manually curated, but the WWWW automatically crawled sites and kept them in a database, then matched them to user queries. It would not be released until March of the next years.
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.
Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA)
Started by a few students at UC Santa Cruz, the IUMA is at first a simple FTP drive of MP3 files from lesser-known bands that anyone can download and listen to for free. When the idea goes viral, the group begins soliciting submissions from bands around the world and builds a website to organize tracks and quick download links.
Ranjit’s HTTP Playground
Ranjit Bhatnagar launches one of the first examples of a personal website. His so-called “HTTP Playground” starts with a bulleted list of what he had for lunch every day. Over time, his content expands from the banal to the intimate, sharing stories and opinions from his life with an offbeat humor.
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.
Common Gateway Interface (CGI)
The Common Gateway Interface is formalized as a standard by the NCSA Mosaic team. It allowed web servers to connect to more advanced scripts to generate dynamic HTML content. This allowed developers to execute programs from the server to do things like track visitors, process forms, or update content on a page.
Jerry Yang and David Filo create their online directory, Jerry and David’s guide to the World Wide Web, in just a few weeks while working on their electrical engineering degrees at Stanford. The site immediately garnered attention as the place for discovering new sites, organized into neat and tidy, but somewhat strange, categories. A few months later, the site would be renamed to simply Yahoo!.
The Useless Pages
After his realization that some of the best pages on the web are those that are the most useless, Paul Phillips launches The Useless Pages, a growing record of simple websites with little purpose. The site will eventually be run first by Steve Berlin, and later by John Gephart IV before it was closed completely in 2001.
The first stable verison of the Python programming language is officially released by Guido van Rossum. Though Python is not strictly a web language, it had references to the web and to HTML in its 1.0.0 release notes, and is often used in web applications to manipulate, process, and format data.
Spyglass Rewrites the Mosaic Browser
Realizing that they had a product they didn’t know how to sell, NCSA turns to Spyglass to begin distributing the Mosaic browser commercially. Spyglass would eventually rewrite the Mosaic browser and license it to companies like IBM and O’Reilly Media, before it eventually became a foundational piece of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Developed by University of Washington computer science student Brian Pinkerton, WebCrawler was among the first search engines, and the first to offer full text search of page content. Within six months, it would serve over a million queries, and it was acquired by AOL shortly after its first anniversary. WebCrawler would change hands several more times over the years.
Justin’s Links from the Underground
Justin Hall creates his first website from his Swathmore dorm room. He calls it Links from the Underground. It begins as a simple list of links but soon expands to one of the earliest examples of a blog on the web, with Justin sharing intimate details from his life every day.
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.
BookLink Technologies releases InternetWorks for Windows, the first browser to feature tabbed browsing and advanced browsing history features. Several months after its release, it would be acquired by AOL for use inside the platform, until it was replaced by Netscape.
Cool Site of the Day
Created by Glenn Davis as a way of featuring great new sites, Cool Site of the Day, was updated daily with a new website on its homepage. It would eventually garner millions of views a month, before its popularity waned.
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.
The domain name for Tripod is registered, pre-dating most other free web hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. Tripod’s explicit goal is to give college students a way of setting up a spot for themselves on the web, though it would eventually come to be known as an easy-to-use service for free web homepages.
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 Banner Ad
Hotwired launches with the web’s first official banner ad, a simple image with the text “Have You Ever Clicked Your Mouse Right Here?” highlighting the forward thinking of AT&T. The ad brought users to a landing page that took them on a virtual tour of worldwide art museums.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
The World Wide Web Consortium is founded by Tim Berners-Lee with one location at MIT, and one at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. The W3C is a standards body organization, and makes recommendations to browsers for the technologies that make up the web. Its members include standards experts, browser makers, and multi-national companies with a stake in the web’s future.
Time Warner Pathfinder
An early example of an online web portal, Pathfinder hosted content from around 80 different content providers, major media publications that syndicated content to the site. It would soon become famous for an incredibly high turnover rate, but it would also be the starting point for many renowned tech journalists and entrepreneurs. It was officially shut down in April of 1999.
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.
Larry Wall releases Perl version 5, a complete rewrite of the programming language that was originally released in late 1987. Perl 5 was the first library to feature first class support for database interfaces, and would soon be used to create an entirely new generation of webpages and web-based applications.
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.
David Bohnett and John Rezner create a web hosting service called Beverly Hills Internet. After giving away a fixed amount of web storage for free, they change the name to Geocities and create a number of “neighborhoods” for amateur webmasters to connect through. Yahoo would later acquire Geocities in 1999, and take it offline in 2009.
Claudio Pinhanez begins writing daily entries on the MIT Media Lab website. It becomes an early example of an online diary, and a template for others to follow — Pinahenz has one of the earliest examples of his posts arranged in reverse chronological format, which would become a standard format.
UK magazine publisher Future Publishing launches .net magazine. Though the content is initially for Internet users of any kind (including technologies like email and Gopher), it would eventually center largely on articles for web designers and developers. The magazine would go through several iterations before it was officially ended in June of 2020.
Carolyn Burke begins publishing stories from her life to her website. Each day brings a new entry with some links she found on the web, and a short anecdote from her day. She calls it her online diary. It would later be called a blog.
Nancy Evans, Candice Carpenter, and Robert Levitan launch iVillage, an offshoot of Parent Soup, an editorial and community channel launched by Evans and Carpenter on AOL. The site’s main focus is on its message boards, which attract a brand new community of women to the web looking for a shared space.
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.
Lynda.com launches as a way for author and teacher Lynda Weinman to collect questions related to her book and in-person courses. Over the years, it evolves from a small community of developers, to a place to buy web design DVDs and ask questions, to a full online course offering across dozens of subjects.
After working on an experimental browser as part of a research project at Telenor, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy demo their new browser Opera at the third International WWW Conference. Over the years, the Opera browser would expand to a whole host of devices, from mobile phones to gaming devices to in-store checkout lines.
Founded by editors from The San Francisco Examiner and originally intended to be part of Apple’s eWorld network, Salon launches thanks to financial backing by Adobe Ventures. Over the years they would build up a devoted audience and community, live through an initially successful then failed IPO, and break the news on several major scandals.
While in New York, Aliza Sherman reaches out to a few women she had met online to suggest an in-person gathering. Over time, this group evolves into Webgrrls, a national organization for women of the web with tens of thousands of members and chapters in just about every major city.
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.
Founder Jamie Levy and editor Marisa Bowe launch Word Magazine, the earliest example of an exclusively online publication that blended brutally honest content with a unique, zine-inspired aesthetic. Though it only lasted a few years, it influenced the first wave of web design and online magazines for years to come.
PHP: Hypertext Preprocesser
Rasmus Lerdorf publicly releases his “Personal Home Page Tools” package (or just PHP Tools for short). Though originally a fairly rudimentary tool built on top of CGI, after several iterations PHP would eventually evolve into the most popular programming language on the web.
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.
Jeff Bezos launches his online bookseller, though his goal is to expand to other markets as soon as possible. The site is one of the earliest examples of an exclusively online retailer, and it would create the roadmap for the commercial web for the next decade and beyond.
Originally a BBS and online service known as Women’s WIRE, founded by Ellen Pack and Nancy Rhine, the site relaunches as a community website thanks to partner Marleen McDaniel. It would become a central destination for women online, with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. It would be purchased by iVillage in 2001, in the wake of the dot-com crash.
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.
Microsoft launches a dial-up service and Internet Service Provider known as The Microsoft Network alongside a web portal known as Microsoft Internet Start, to coincide with its release of the Internet Explorer browser. By 1998, Microsoft will have closed their proprietary network in favor of a suite of web-based tools, and collapsed Internet Start into MSN.com as a more traditional web directory and navigation site.
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.
David Litman and Robert Diener move their hotel reservation system to the web using the domain hoteldiscounts.com. One of the earliest examples of a travel booking site on the web, it would eventually be purchased by USA Networks (along with Expedia) and move to Hotels.com.
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.
Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner create web based radio site AudioNet, based on an Internet based radio startup by Chris Jaeb. Within a few years, the company would stream broadcasts from hundreds of sporting events and stream content to millions of users. It would eventually rebrand to Broadcast.com, a high watermark of investment during the dot-com boom.
Netscape Navigator 2.0
Day in the Life of Cyberspace
MIT lab launches an early community experiment, soliciting submissions from people all over the world, and posting them to their website on the day of their 10th anniversary. The site acted as a time capsule, documenting the way in which people were finding new ways to work and live on the Internet.
One of the earliest examples of a regional city guide designed for the web, CitySearch launches in a handful of cities. It provides local business listings, directions, and reviews to help visitors navigate their local cities more effectively. Eventually, it would go public, and then merge with Ticketmaster and absorb former competitor Sidewalk.com.
Data Protection Directive
One of the first pieces of legislation passed internationally regarding privacy online, the Data Protection Directive provides protections for individuals with regard to data collection online. It restricts the unnecessary collection of personal data, and requires sites to make clear exactly what data will be tracked. It was superseded in 2018 by the General Data Protection Regulation.
Nettime Mailing List
A mailing list created by Geert Lovink and Pit Schultz for artists and critics willing to take the web seriously as an artistic medium. It was the launching pad for movements such as net.art and Net Critique, and served as a meeting ground for some of the most influential writers and artists of the early web.
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.
FrontPage is released by Vermeer Technologies. Its goal is to allow even beginners to create websites easily using drag and drop tools and would soon become one of the most popular web authoring tools on the market.
The first streaming radio website from co-founders Scott Bourne and Scot Combs. Their servers are set up to convert analog radio stations to digital RealAudio streams, discoverable on their website alongside concert schedules and band profiles. In 1997, NetRadio would be acquired by Navarre Corporation, and then suspended altogether in 2001.
One of the earliest examples we have of a social network, founder Randy Conrads initially launches the site as a way of finding former high school classmates through a paid service. It eventually expands to include many of the features familiar in modern social media, including profile, chat, and friends.
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.
Developed by Dave Raggett as a way to demonstrate the extended feature set of HTML+, Arena would eventually become the testing browser at the W3C until it was replaced by Amaya.
In December, Pitchfork launches (originally with the name Turntable), making it one of the first MP3 blogs on the web. Soon, hundreds of MP3 blogs pop up to surface underground tracks, posting downloadable music tracks next to offbeat reviews all with the ultimate goal of sharing music discovery.
Yukihiro Matsumoto designs Ruby as an offshoot of Perl (and influenced by Python), focusing on simple shortcuts and small wins for developers. The language is dynamically typed and forgiving by design, and takes off first in Japan, then later worldwide.
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.
Designing Web Graphics
Lynda Weinman publishes the massively successful Designing Web Graphics after looking for an introductory book for a design class she was teaching, and finding none. The book grounds itself in a discussion of web graphics as a way of properly introducing the capabilities and potential of web design.
Created inside of American Airlines as an extension of their electronic booking service Sabre, Travelocity opens to the public. Using the site, visitors can view and book flights directly, skipping the call to their travel agents. It is one of the earliest examples online of an air travel booking service on the web.
Glenn Davis and Teresa Martin start Project Cool, one of the earliest examples of an educational resource for web developers and designers. Davis would use the site as a launching pad for tutorials, tips, and new techniques such as his evolving approaches to Liquid Design. Eventually, its founders would co-author two books based on the content of the site.
Designing for the Web: Getting Started in a New Medium
Jennifer Niederst writes Designing for the Web,her first foray into publishing and one of the first books about web design ever published. The book targets print and graphic designers looking to make the leap to the web, and provides all of the tools and techniques necessary to make that transition possible.
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.
Originally created as a mailing list by Mark Tribe, Rhizome grew as an organization dedicated to Internet art. It would eventually operate as a non-profit organization, with its website acting as a repository of interviews and collections of Internet art, with several satellite projects such as ArtBase, created to aid in the archiving of works of art on the web.
The Great Web Blackout Protest
On the day a highly controversial new bill called the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was signed into law, over 1,500 websites turned their designs black in opposition. The protest was organized Shabbir J. Safdar and brought awareness for, and ultimately action against, the new legislation.
PointCast launches in beta, promising to bring new “push” based technology to the web platform. PointCast streamed content from websites directly to user’s computers via their screensaver. Within a few years, it would prove a failed experiment, as many abandoned push technology for the ubiquity of their web browsers.
A new approach to laying out designs on the web, Liquid Layout advocates for the use of percentage width tables over the predominantly fixed-width designs of the ’90’s. When set in percentages, websites are able to expand or narrow based on the resolution it is being rendered in.
Eventually renamed to Yahoo! Kids, Yahooligans! was a version of the Yahoo! front-page tailored for small children. Its content was filtered to be safe for children, and it offered educational topics and directory listings. Over time, the site would expand to include games, trivia, and editorial content.
The Internet Archive and Alexa
Brewster Kahle develops Alexa, a web crawler that analyzes user patterns on the web to provide more relevant search results. He also begins depositing sites crawled by Alexa into the Internet Archive, which would grow to become the largest archive of the web, and its own non-profit entity.
What began as an email list for events and random classifieds launches on its own domain, the eponymous craigslist.org, founded by Craig Newmark and Philip Knowlton. The small list of classifieds would soon expand to city after city, allowing anyone to post their listings with notoriously view restrictions and very little in the way of overt advertising or ornate design.
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.
net.art began online, in the nettime mailing list, with a small of group of artists. Many met for the first time in person in May of 1996 at net.art per se, a conference organized by net artist Vuk Cosic. Over the next few years, the
net.art movement would largely exist outside the mainstream web and art worlds, instead distributing their works of unique, digital art directly to new visitors.
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.
Thanks to backing by Microsoft, Slate magazine launches, promising, “part of our mission at Slate will be trying to bring cyberspace down to earth.” The magazine has changed formats, editors, and even parent companies (as of 2004, Slate has been owned by the Washington Post), but it has maintained a steady voice and tone and mission to synthesize and editorialize the news.
Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launch one of the first web-based email service, HoTMaiL (emphasis on HTML). Until then, users relied on ISP’s or online portals like AOL for their email, tying them to their individual providers. Hotmail was among the first to provide a web interface for accessing and sending email. Within a year it would be scooped up by Microsoft and would eventually become Outlook.com.
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.
Elon and Kimbal Musk along with Greg Khouri launch Zip2, merging a directory of business listings with map-based navigation to create an interactive Yellow Pages for the web. Over time, the company would partner with editorial outlets such as The New York Times and Knight Ridder to offer a more complete guide to local sights and cities.
Bobby launches as one of the first accessibility tools on the web. In its first iteration, developers could enter a link to their site or upload an HTML file and get back a comprehensive accessibility report. It would go through several versions, each more advanced than the last, until it was discontinued in 2005.
After a year of development, NetObjects launches their web design and publishing tool Fusion (originally known as SitePublisher). It commissioned design work from designers like Susan Kare and Clement Mok in order to deliver one of the earliest visually driven, WYSIWYG web editing experiences. The company would go through several shifts, including backing from IBM, an IPO, and eventual sale to Web.com
After an internal team at Microsoft pivoted from an Encarta based travel guidebook to a travel booking website, Expedia launches with online access to air travel, hotels, and car reservations. Eventually, the site will be spun off into its own independent company prior to the dot-com surge of the early 2000’s.
Vignette launches another early entry into the content management market, after working with Cnet to distribute their internal publishing tool, Prism. The software would evolve into a personalization tool, used for both web publishing and customer tracking. The software has been used by The Wall Street Journal and NASA.
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.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Håkon W. Lie proposes the first iteration of Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, as a way of styling web pages. CSS gets its strength from its support of multiple stylesheets on the same page, and from its simple declarative syntax. CSS is soon adopted by the W3C as an official standard, and is integrated into modern browsers little by little.
The First Popup Ad
Seeking a way to separate ads from the randomized pages they appeared on, the development team at Tripod creates a pop-up ad. Ads would display in a separate window, making the line between ad and content clear. The technique, however, would soon be abused, and by the end of the year, tools would emerge to stop it altogether.
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.
The Webby Awards
Billed as the modern day tech take on the Oscars, the Webby’s began as an offshoot of Web Magazine with a small pool of nominations at an understated, offbeat ceremony. Over the years it grew to an event with dozens of categories, celebrity hosts, and the biggest names in the tech world, and outside of it, receiving awards.
Sun Microsystems releases their first and only browser to the market. Originally forked from Mosaic several years earlier, HotJava was rewritten in the Java programming language for its release. Its main differentiator was support for Java applets, a technology that made it possible to run full Java applications right inside of a webpage, later adopted by most major browsers.
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.
Built on the concept of six degrees of separation, SixDegrees, one of the earliest social networks, used your existing offline relationships to build your digital profile through an expanding profile of friends of friends. The site is notable for attempting to bridge the gap between online and offline life. It sold in December of 1999, only to be shut down a year later.
Priceline launches on the premise that airlines and hotels have vacancies to fill they might be willing to sell at a discount in exchange for flexibility. The initial gimmick lets visitors select a list of preferences that match them with airline tickets and hotel rooms where they could name their own price backed by high profile ads starring William Shatner.
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.
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.
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.
Heather and Heidi Swanson launch the half web-ring, half social platform site ChickClick. It links out to dozens of other woman-focused sites with new articles and commentary posted each day. It is among the first site to offer free homepage creation tools to its users with its subsite ChickPages.
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.
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.
While still in high school, Matt Mickiewicz begins compiling common resources for web designers at his site webmasters-resources.com. Within a few years, he’ll join with Mark Harbottle to create Sitepoint, an online magazine and community geared towards web designers with simple, targeted articles.
The W3C officially recommends the first major step forward for Cascading Style Sheets, bundling new functionality like positioning, bi-directional text, and additional font styling attributes. It is eventually adopted by all modern browsers, including the still-relatively new Internet Explorer beginning with Internet Explorer 5 for Mac.
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.
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.
Google is officially incorporated by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, though the technology their new website would be based on had been in development for several years. Google follows a wave of portal-based search engines and returns to a focus on simple, text-based search. Their algorithm’s key differentiator is PageRank, which uses the back-links a webpage receives to determine its relative strength in the rankings. Started in a garage, over time, Google would grow to become one of the biggest web-based companies in the world.
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.
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.
Microsoft launches its entry into the City Guide space, Sidewalk.com. Mostly focused on business listings, classifieds, and local advertising, the site initially focuses on a few local test markets before expanding slowly. However, it is never able to fully gain market share in a crowded and rapidly shrinking city guide space, and eventually is acquired by competitor CitySearch in 1999.
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.
Internet Explorer 5
The first Microsoft browser released to a market with a share greater than Netscape’s, Internet Explorer 5 saw many improvements from previous versions. Its speed, usability, developer technologies such as ActiveX and XMLHTTPRequest support, and wide range of Internet features made it one of the most advanced browsers on the market. When the 5.5 version was released several years later, it would also include HTML components.
A collection of authors and business analysts publish 95 theses of modern business to the web under the moniker Cluetrain Manifesto. Years before social media platforms entered the mainstream, the site is able to generate conversation through news outlets, personal websites, and digital word of mouth. It is an early example of the kind of web virality.
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.
Former Blogger employee Matthew Haughey launches his own take on blogging with a community weblog. Visitors to MetaFilter could post a link and a brief description, which was used to generate conversation through threaded comments on the site. Because of its presence on the early web, and a loyal group of followers, the MetaFilter has created a largely active and productive example of an online community.
Pyra Labs, a web development studio created by Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan, releases the first version of Blogger, an early blogging tool which allows users to use a simple form to write posts that were sent to their server. Blogger was one of several tools on the early web that made web publishing simple and accessible, and helped spread blogging to a growing community of indie publishers and writers. 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.
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.
First Targeted Political Ad Campaign
In an attempt to engage Virginia voters during the 2000 GOP primary, candidate John McCain’s campaign launches a series of ads soliciting petition signatures from Internet users. The campaign uses voter registration data to cross-reference potential voters in that state, and ads were displayed on major websites, such as Excite.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dot Com Peak
On March 10, 2000, the U.S. stock market index peaked at the crest of a wave of tech investment and speculation at the turn of the century. Over the next few months, the entire world would see this bubble burst, as the ripple effects of the so-called dot-com crash permeated international markets.
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.
Drupal launches as a personal messaging board between college friends at the University of Antwerp. It was named wholly by accident, derived from the Dutch word for village, Dorp. Within a couple of years, its primary developer, Dries Buytaert, would evolve the software into one of the first examples of a content management system that let users create and edit content on a site without needing to directly edit HTML or code.
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.
The KDE project includes a new browser, called Konquerer, in its version 2 release. Like KDE generally, Konquerer is open source and maintained by an active community. The engine at the heart of this browser would eventually become the basis for Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome.
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.
Internet Explorer 6
Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 6 bundled with Windows XP. The browser is fairly advance, features the latest web standards, and takes a large share of the market. However, the next version of IE would not be released for 5 years, and it soon fell behind its competitors.
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.
Microsoft Web Standards Task Force
Spearheaded by Molly Holzschlag, The Web Standards Projects creates a task force to help bring better web standards support to Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer. Over the next few years, this group would provide Microsoft with guidance on how best to implement the latest HTML and CSS specifications.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In a groundbreaking experiment in news publishing, Raleigh area newspaper News & Observer launches a number of digital projects aimed at growing a regional community hub. At launch, it included a website with reprinted local and national news, and an Internet Service Provider for North Carolinians. Though short-lived, it acted as a road map for other publishers coming online.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
The DMCA is signed into law, criminalizing the distribution and creation of technology intended to circumvent copyright protections. The law had been introduced a year earlier, and received bipartisan support when it was signed by President Clinton. It would soon become a source of controversy, so broadly defined that it forces many platforms to remove content from their site to avoid litigation.