20 Years of CSS

Initially released on December 17, 1996, CSS is celebrating its 20th year of being an essential web style language. Web trends seemingly change over night, but here are five major events in CSS and web development history.

1: Håkon’s email –  Most modern web users would be shocked at what websites looked like before CSS. Static and rigid, sites had minimal visual cues for readers. Håkon Wium Lie, while working with Tim Berners-Lee at CtERN, proposed a style sheet scheme to let HTML documents be influenced by multiple ordered style sheets. Read it here.

2: W3C Recommendation of CSS Level 1 – The first rules for calling external style sheets emerged from Håkon Wium Lie and Bert Bos’ recommendation in 1996. For many web developers, this was less of a recommendation and more of a bible, providing much of the terminology and concepts that are still in use today.

3: Firefox – Web users in the 1990s were all unwilling participants in the browser wars. Internet Explorer and Netscape, the two behemoths of web browsers, each pushing their own HTML advancements and agendas. This battle ended up fragmenting web design to the point of near-incompatibility. Then things got interesting as the non-profit Mozilla released an open-source browser, Firefox, that burst on the scene in 2003. With a slew of UX improvements to web browsing (browser tabs for one), it critically embraced web standards such as HTML 4.0, XML 1.0, and CSS 1 and 2. And, with no coincidence, became the choice for web developers worldwide in the mid-2000s.

4: CSS Zen Garden -Believe it or not, there was a time when CSS was not taken that seriously as an aesthetic function of a website. Dave Shea went about to change that perception with the CSS Zen Garden, a site showed off different CSS designs that could be wildly beautiful, fun, functional, or all of the above. A fertile ground to demonstrate new concepts, this site has become a massive source of inspiration for designers who are looking for new ways to use CSS.

5: Responsive Design – The first true responsive sites emerged in 2001, when audi.com could dynamically adapt to the different browser sizes. But modern responsive web design (RWD) really came of age in the past decade with the introduction of mobile browsers. The foundation and principles of RWD was laid out by Ethan Marcotte in 2010 in his now-famous essay. To learn more about what Ethan as thinking at that time, check out this interview on CreativeBloq.

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