Flash was everywhere, but it wasn’t open. Web developers responded with a push for standards. Getting browser vendors to implement standards—and developers to use them—reinvigorated the web, turning to it to “create once and share across platforms.”
- The Web Standards Project was really a reaction to the fact that browsers were completely incompatible with each other. - Making redundant versions of the same code and asking the user to have the knowledge of which browser they're using, and decide which version of the site they wanted to go to; that's a bit much. - There was that transitional phase of, hey, we can be part of this conversation, and a whole lot of people saying, what do you mean, you can be part of a conversation? This isn't a conversation. This is they build stuff and we have to deal with what they give us.
We had brilliant people who understood CSS, who would say, we're going to devise a test, and now we're going to run that test on Opera, and see how Opera's browser does. We're going to run it on Microsoft's browser and see how it does. The idea wasn't to shame them, it was to help them. The browser makers really came on board, and they were people like Chris Wilson at Microsoft, Tantek Celik at Microsoft. Really smart people who came on, who were very much on board with Supporting Standards. - If we hadn't had that, then all the people who'd said that the Web Center's Project was wasting it's time, and there was no way that it would ever do what it wanted to do.
They would have been right. - Once we got the browser support, then we had to convince designers and developers to actually use the standards, and that took some more persuasion because a lot of people were happy with Tables, and a lot of people were happy with Flash. And there were reasons to be happy with both those things, but neither of them was good for the web longterm. (energetic keyboard music) - By 2003, it turned out that there was enough CSS that was dependable cross-browser, that there needed to be some demo sites that show how powerful is CSS.
What can you do with it? - CSS Zen Garden was a site that presented the same HTML and allowed for users across the web to submit their own designs. However, those designs were only ever implemented by changing just the CSS file. You could never make any changes to the HTML. - CSS Zen Garden was the first sort of universal sense across the community, the first glimmer of how this separation of content and presentation could really work.
- Everybody would come in and submit their own design, their own look and feel that could be dramatically different from any of the ones that came before it. And the only thing that was part of that was the CSS and any of the images that were linked through that CSS file. - It demonstrated that you don't actually need to change your markup. You can do amazing, beautiful, gorgeous things in just CSS. - Being able to style content, and use just the enablement of what the web could provide to create these immersive, beautiful experiences.
It was a huge moment in time where everything changed on the web, and the creativity level just rose to a completely new dimension. - It had sort of like two majors effects. One, it caused a huge upswing in the adoption of CSS cause of course people where like, hey, I want to do that with my site. And clearly, CSS is the way to do that. And the second thing it did is it caused people to realize, okay, I can actually move all my presentation out of my HTML. Which then left the HTML to be this simple structure of the document that would just have the semantics of it.
Just have the meanings. Things like headings and paragraphs that made the documents themselves a lot more accessible. - If my content is separated from my design, and my content semantically marked up, it's going to be easier for, let's say a blind person who's using the screen-reader to navigate my content. - It was a big aha moment for designers and developers alike to see how we really could start separating those out, and treat our HTML markup as a representation of the content in the core being of the web, while maintaining presentation as a separate thing that could be adaptable.
- Because the way CSS was designed, a lot of that was more forward-compatible for different screen widths. It made things like flexible layout, liquid layout, possible. And eventually, made it possible so that when mobile devices got introduced, a huge portion of web pages out there, that were designed in these sort of flexible ways with CSS, mostly just worked. - Sometimes you just think to yourself, well, of course we can change the direction of our entire industry. And then it actually happened. (electronic music)
In the film, Matt Griffin knits together a narrative from dozens of conversations with important figures from throughout the web's history. He interviews Tim Berners-Lee, Denise Jacobs, Jeffrey Zeldman, Ethan Marcotte, Chris Wilson, Lyza Danger Gardner, Eric Meyer, Irene Au, Alex Russell, Trent Walton, Val Head, Jonathan Snook, and many more. The result is a series of unique insights about why the web is structured the way it is, why standards matter, how mobile disrupted everything, and why the web isn't done growing.