Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

A brief history of CSS

From: CSS Fundamentals

Video: A brief history of CSS

To me, one of the most interesting things about CSS is how it's constantly changing and evolving. As web designers, the ever-changing nature of CSS continues to give us new features and capabilities that we can use to enhance our designs. Of course, this also means that we need to keep an eye on CSS, monitor the changes that are being made to it, and track how browsers are implementing those changes. In this chapter, we're going to discuss how you can do all those things, but before we get into how to track CSS specifications, I want to take a moment to cover some of CSS's history. That's going to provide you with a little bit of context.

A brief history of CSS

To me, one of the most interesting things about CSS is how it's constantly changing and evolving. As web designers, the ever-changing nature of CSS continues to give us new features and capabilities that we can use to enhance our designs. Of course, this also means that we need to keep an eye on CSS, monitor the changes that are being made to it, and track how browsers are implementing those changes. In this chapter, we're going to discuss how you can do all those things, but before we get into how to track CSS specifications, I want to take a moment to cover some of CSS's history. That's going to provide you with a little bit of context.

In the very beginning, there were no style sheets--at least not for authors. Each browser had its own internally defined style sheet that gave the browser instructions on how to style page elements. Eventually, the movement to allow authors to control the presentation of HTML led to the publication of the CSS 1.0 specification in 1996. This was quickly followed up by the CSS 2.0 specification, which was released as a recommendation in 1998. Now, these early CSS specifications were released at a very volatile time in the development of web browsers.

You see, in the late 1990s, browser manufacturers were more interested in market share than being standards compliant. In fact, the movement towards supporting web standards was still very young. At that time, browsers would introduce their own proprietary way of dealing with presentation that didn't agree with the CSS specifications, or would even offer uneven support for CSS. Now, it didn't help matters that the CSS 2.0 specification continued to be updated even after it was published.

Due to these and other factors, CSS had real problems in gaining traction among web designers and browser manufacturers. In fact, to this day, not a single browser fully implements the 2.0 specification. Those issues prompted the W3C to start work on revising the 2.0 specification. This revision, dubbed CSS 2.1 was issued as a candidate recommendation in 2004 and is largely what people are talking about when they discuss CSS.

Support for web standards continued to grow during the development of CSS 2.1, and browser manufacturers finally began to get serious about implementing the standard. For the most part, modern browsers offer full implementation of the 2.1 standard. You'll notice I said, "for the most part." Because of uneven implementation, the W3C pulled the 2.1 specification back to working draft status in 2005 to even out the bugs and make the standard a little bit stricter. It was returned to candidate recommendation in 2007 and upgraded to full recommendation status in 2011.

Okay, so just to review, the 2.0 specification was released and never fully implemented, and the 2.1 revision was released, pulled back to working draft, and then re-released again over the course of about six years. Now, saner minds might reason that the W3C should get one standard release and implemented before moving onto the next, but that line of thinking ignores the rapid evolution of the web. During the course of the development of CSS, some very important changes have occurred in the way that web sites are developed and consumed.

For example, the rise of online applications and mobile devices are just two of the changes that the original CSS specifications just weren't designed to address. Now, this is leading the W3C to take a very different and deliberate approach to developing the next generation of style-sheet standards. I'm guessing that you've at least heard of CSS3. What you may not know, however, is that CSS3 isn't really a single specification. Although work on the CSS level 3 standard has been going on since at least 2001, the days of a large singular standard document that defines CSS are over.

CSS 2.1 was the last all-encompassing CSS specification that we're going to see. The capabilities, properties, and just sheer size of CSS have grown enormously over the last decade. Trying to get such an overwhelmingly large document through the development and review process and then publish it as a recommendation is extremely difficult and slow. Because of this, the W3C has decided to modularize the CSS standard. Now, what does that mean? Well, essentially it means it's been split up into various parts.

CSS selectors, for example, are defined in their own standard, while backgrounds and borders are defined in another. This approach allows the working group to have much more flexibility over the evolution of CSS. Individual standards can be developed based on different priority levels when needed, and it's much easier to edit or add modules as the needs of web content changes. So in fact, there is no single CSS3 specification; there are simply individual specifications, and some of them have that level 3 label that are based on, and meant to extend, the 2.1 core specification.

If you want to find out a little bit more behind the strategy of the W3C regarding CSS, I recommend reading their Introduction to CSS3. Although it was published in 2001, this document is a great job of explaining the logic behind the move towards the modularization of CSS and gives you a list and description of the initial CSS3 modules. From this point on, all future additions to CSS will update the existing modules or add new ones to the mix. While this is a smart way to make sure the evolution of CSS responds to the web community's needs, it can make it difficult to keep track of all of it.

In our next movie, we'll do that by discussing the current state of CSS3 and showing you how you can keep up with the development of the different modules.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for CSS Fundamentals
CSS Fundamentals

36 video lessons · 73726 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed CSS Fundamentals.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your lynda.com subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.