A trip back to 1991. Not yet 25 years yet, some journalists last year got it wrong.
The all of the USSR, the first gulf war. sonic hedgehog, and my favorite: SNES.
The web is 24 years old. Probably older than some of you in the public.
Because we’re a young industry, we sometimes don’t know anymore why some things were like they were.
We have to work harder to keep our past accessible. A lot of it is gone already.
Learn from the past
’91-’00 the Wild West
Browser wars, Dotcom boom.
’93 Mosaic browser launched. It supported inline images, before that it was all text.
CERN devoted the web to the public.
’94 W3C formed. The founders of Mosaic formed a new company called Netscape.
’95 Netscape’s IPO
’96 CSS level 1
’97 Full swing browser wars, but not in supporting CSS, more propriety features.
Microsoft licensed Mosaic to become IE
’98 WaSP (web standards project) launched. Never meant to be an acronym, but literally a swarm of wasp. Bugging browser vendors to support new features. But people didn’t get the name, and the acronym fitted nicely.
It was a browser upgrade campaign, inspiring users to put a banner on their site, to ask users to upgrade to a newer browser. Didn’t matter which one. It was not meant for users, but for developers to be able to start experimenting with new features.
’99 IE overtakes Netscape. Would take until 2012 before Chrome finally overtook them.
Yahoo site in ’94. just a grey background, and a menu. With a list of links below it.
’95, they were experimenting with logos. That was still pretty common back then.
’96 They came out with the well known homepage most of you remember them for. This one probably stayed for 5/6 years, which was quite a long time in these days. There were little changes made in 98/99 though.
Hotwired – the online version of Wired. They had the first banner ever. It had click through rates of around 80%. Nowadays we don’t even count click-throughs anymore, we just go for impressions.
Ads with countdown timers, modal popups, etc. All these can be traced back to this.
Before Google, we had Altavista. Before Gmail we had hotmail as web mail.
Geocities was the wild west for personal sites. It was the #3 most popular site once. Until they got acquired by Yahoo. It went fast after that.
Tim Berners-Lee worked for CERN. It was a scientific organization, and the web was a scientist project.
The web isn’t print, but everybody wanted it to be. You can’t expect something new to come around and people directly knowing what to do with it.
We wanted the web to be a visual medium. Images, flashing images, Flash.
In the mid 90s HTML was about presentation. Killer websites (there’s that book again, maybe I should get a copy?). Pixel GIFs. Good and bad things.
People would build entire sites in flash or as an image, because it has some nice features, and it would look just as they wanted to. Didn’t have to consider browsers compatibility anymore, as there just was IE now. You could make a site with visual tools, without knowing how to code.
CSS was designed to fix this, but it was not good enough to fix all this at the time.
2001-2006 quiet years
This era has defined the web. Things felt small. There was more of a community. Blog comments worked, there was no spam or flaming yet. Blogging was hot. Movable Type, WordPress. exciting time with lots of collaboration. Slack is the closest to it what we have now (So much talk of Slack, I should probably look into it).
’01 Wikipedia launched. Could you think of that we had a time before Wikipedia and Google. Well, Google is a little older, it launched in ’98, but didn’t became very know until 2000.
’02 CSS hacks started to gain ground. CSS layouts worked, except in IE. Hacks started to get a live of their own. It got out of hand quickly, just start hacking because we can. The box model hack the first CSS hack?
’03 CSS Zen Garden. This was my project, I can’t really talk about it objectively. It was build out of frustration that nobody used the standards. Jeffrey Zeldman said show people standards, don’t tell them. I was just an advertisement person talking about it.
’04 Firefox 1.0 started using the Netscape Suite and stripped it down.
WhatWG started, who you might now from the HTML5 standard.
’05 Adobe buys Macromedia. We ended up with one tool, instead of it getting improved. The state of authoring tools didn’t really grow. I like that we have tools like Sketch now to give Adobe some competition.
A List Apart. Digital web magazine was like it. many people forgot about it. It was a great way to get visibility and promote things for the web.
Launch of Wired news. The first site with a full CSS layout. Wired was the Microsoft of that time, who was the showcase for responsive design. The fallback sites for older browsers were very ugly.
ESPN came along a little bit later. The developers of both site worked at twitter later. What does that say? With Wired people said it was just a site for techie people, but that didn’t count with ESPN.
By this time the browser development had stalled. The update cycles went from weeks to years. Netscape 4 was still around, but the last release was around 97. It even had a significant share 6 years later. It finally destroyed itself from the inside.
This was the start of ten years of slowdown. After auto-updating we started to go much faster again. IE6 FUD, at that time had over 90% market share. They didn’t shape the web at all. They walked away from it. It’s hard to not be cynical. It’s not clear what they were doing. Did they see the web as a competition? They didn’t predict mobile or the cloud… making a single OS obsolete. Other browsers didn’t really matter.
CSS 2 was released, but buggy. Although it didn’t matter. CSS3 was still very far off. Nobody knew what CSS really could do. The ones who knew, weren’t designers and couldn’t show it. Selling standards to your boss was hard.
We got past this by doing small projects at a time. As a community. There was no browser evolution, but we needed to do our job. We created new techniques in an accessible and semantic way. We were figuring out how to build layouts. There were two options: positioning and floats. Positioning didn’t work very good. Floats were actually a hack.
We could start downloading themes that were the base of our current frameworks.
Sliding doors, tabs were very popular at that time. It used two images that had text in the middle and could slide back and forth. This was also how we did rounded corners
Also very common were fixed faux columns, and various image replacement techniques.
Lots of new, independent companies, like flick, Delico.us, Feedburner, Upcoming. These came along when the internet was revived. They revived the general interest in the internet. One company saw chances and bought projects. it seemed they got it. That company was Yahoo.
Too often now a company gets bought and its former product destroyed. Including the data generated by the users.
2007 – present: Multi-device web
Often it was asked in the media: will this be the year of mobile? 2007 would become what we think of the year of mobile now. When smartphones got around, they had browsers but these were terrible. Until 2007. until the iPhone. It had the first browser that mattered.
Steve Jobs sold it as three products, a phone, an iPod and an internet communicator.
08 A flurry of activity, CSS animations, web fonts. Chrome gets released. Android released the first time.
The web won’t stop at at the phone. We need tools to present the web in the best possible way. Fixed width websites were easier to do. People like Ethan (Marcotte) and Jeremy (Keith) proposed responsive web design.
Major vendors are committed to the web. there is a lot of active development. There are new specs, a constant change. Continuous growth. Specialize yourself, but don’t get stuck in there. Keep looking around for how things evolve.
Be vigilant. Things look good for the web, but don’t let your guard down. Net neutrality, and government surveillance threaten the web. One company dominates the browser share. That might make it hard, but I don’t think a new IE is to happen.
The web is resilient. Should we worry? We have survived before, so we can be cautiously optimistic.
1 billion sites. 3 billion people online. The future is unclear. I love the web. I want it to be there for the rest of my life.