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By 1999, Netscape had fallen behind Microsoft in browser technology. It also had trouble navigating relationships — with both its new parent AOL and the developers of its open source project, Mozilla. By the end of 1999, Netscape was a startup shipwreck. Fortunately, the good ship Mozilla was in much sturdier shape.

Read More 1999: The Fall of Netscape and the Rise of Mozilla

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There were two stylistically opposed approaches to web design, epitomized by two distinct — and utterly different — technologies, both of which debuted in 1996. The first, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), represented structure. Design elements were to be encoded in a new language, CSS, as defined in a W3C web standards specification. The over-riding principle was separation of content and presentation, with content marked up in HTML and presentation in CSS. At the other end of the web design spectrum was the animation tool Flash, in which presentation and content were mashed together in one file.

Read More 1996: Flash and CSS Bring Design to the Web

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By the end of 1995, the foundational pieces of the open source LAMP stack for web development (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) were in place. The acronym itself would not be coined for another few years, but the technology had arrived — albeit at varying stages of maturity and adoption. MySQL was initially an internal database system used by a Swedish company called TcX, from May 1995 onwards. It had been created by Michael (Monty) Widenius, and took a number of years to gain traction.

Read More 1995: MySQL Arrives, Completing the LAMP Stack

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1995 was a big year for web servers — it was when both the open source Apache and Microsoft’s IIS were launched. Apache and IIS ended up usurping their direct competitors (NCSA HTTPd and Netscape’s web servers, respectively). However, Apache was the web server that most influenced the future direction of web development.

Read More 1995: Apache and Microsoft IIS Shake Up the Web Server Market

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This post is to honour the one-year anniversary of the passing of Bill English, at age 91, on 26 July, 2020. English was Doug Engelbart’s right-hand man in the Mother of All Demos in 1968 and a key developer of the oN-Line System (NLS). The post below was initially part of a book I was writing about Engelbart. The book was eventually abandoned, but the memory of meeting English in 2014 remains. As does, I hope, the achievements of those SRI pioneers. RIP, Bill.

Read More The Time I Met Bill English

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It may seem like Microsoft won the browser war in 1998 (despite a looming anti-trust case), but looking back it, was actually the year the web started to open up. It was when open source projects like Mozilla and open standards like DOM began to steer the web towards a more open, equitable future. It was also the year that a coalition of independent web developers arrived on the scene to promote open standards — The Web Standards Project (WaSP). All of these developments would impact the web’s direction for years to come.

Read More 1998: Open Season with Mozilla, W3C’s DOM, and WaSP

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DHTML, or Dynamic HTML, was essentially a combination of HTML, JavaScript, the newly released CSS standard, and an emerging web programming model called the DOM (Document Object Model). That said, the precise definition of DHTML depended on which browser company you spoke to: Netscape or Microsoft.

As it turned out, Microsoft’s vision for DHTML was more compelling from a technical perspective than Netscape’s (perhaps the first time that could be said about a web technology Microsoft pioneered — but it would not the last). What Microsoft wanted to achieve with DHTML was to make every element of an HTML document into a programmable object.

Read More 1997: The Year of DHTML

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If CGI scripts were the start of interactive programming on the web, then PHP was the natural next step — at least on the server-side. Just a month after Brendan Eich created the JavaScript scripting language at Netscape, an independent developer from Canada named Rasmus Lerdorf released the first version of a toolset he called Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools). At this point, it wasn’t a scripting language (although it would eventually become one). As of June 1995, when Lerdorf announced the project to the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi mailing list, it was a utility library and templating engine for the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). In modern terms, we can think of it as similar to a JavaScript library like React — although obviously much less complicated, since this was 1995.

Read More 1995: PHP Quietly Launches as a CGI Scripts Toolset