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CSS: Ten Years, Little Change December 21, 2006 – 3:21 p.m. – Permalink

I was surprised to be informed by Brian that the tenth anniversary of Cascading Style Sheets is here. CSS—that versatile styling language ubiquitous in the Web standards community and nonexistent everywhere else. The World Wide Web Consortium is making a big deal out of it, and they have reason to do it, too.

A early version of CSS was first proposed by Håkon Wium Lie in 1994, with some help from Bert Bos and his Argo project. As Lie and Bos attempted to publicize the proposed styling language, the World Wide Web Consortium took notice and decided to adopt the project. It was released as a W3C recommendation in December 1996.

Microsoft was originally very excited about the language, and even created a Microsoft Typography CSS Gallery in 1997 to show how CSS functioned with Internet Explorer 3, which had very limited support for the styling language. Alas, both Microsoft and Netscape seemed to abandon implementing CSS until 2000, when Internet Explorer 5.0 was released. It had 99% support for CSS 1. And this was while CSS 3 was in development.

Today, no browser has full support for CSS 2, which became a W3C recommendation on May 12, 1998. Even though, by the time Internet Explorer 6 rolled around, CSS was now a viable styling solution, designers refused to use it, citing the hundreds of bugs encountered when utilizing it.

It wasn’t until Jeffrey Zeldman’s revolutionary move to abandon table-based layouts that CSS really began to be accepted in the Web design community. On February 16, 2001, a new version of the magazine A List Apart was released using a CSS-based layout as opposed to one relying on tables.

It’s probably there that the rift began the Web standards community and mainstream designers became apparent. The reason is that it’s taking so dang long for everybody to use acceptable CSS, even there are a bunch of benefits. Nobody listens, and nobody cares.

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