CSS Is 20 Years Old Today

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Two decades ago, Opera's Chief Technical Officer, Håkon Wium Lie, published a document that would change web design forever. It was called Cascading HTML style sheets – a proposal.

These days, cascading style sheets lie at the heart of web design, making HMTL and XML come to life. To the uninitiated, these humble files are little more than strings of text talking about fonts and colors and borders and sizes and who knows what else. But to those that have to us them, they're the inspired devices that allow designers to separate content from style.


On CSS's birthday, Dev.Opera has a wonderful interview with Håkon Wium Lie about the language. If you're into coding or digital design or just love geeking out, it makes for fascinating reading. For instance, he explains how CSS saved HTML:

HTML would have been very different if CSS had not appeared. Authors who came to the web from a desktop publishing background were baffled by the lack of <color>and <font> tags. Including myself. In my first real publication on the web, I resorted to making images with text in it — you can see it in this publication from 1993. If this development had continued, the web would have become a giant fax machine where pictures of text would be passed along. This would have been terrible for blind users and search engines alike. CSS was proposed to prevent this development by giving authors a way to express their designs without adding new HTML tags.


If you have ten minutes to spare this morning, it's well worth a read. Happy birthday, CSS! [Dev.Opera]

Image by Jim under Creative Commons license