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The inevitable price

  • Words: Andy Clarke
  • Tagged with: history

This week at Smashing Conference in New York, I had the very great pleasure of meeting Chris Lilley. I recognised Chris’ name, but it took me a day to remember that he had been the chairman of the ‘Style and Formatting Properties Working Group’ at the W3C, a precursor to the CSS Working Group. Chris is a hugely important person in the history of the web.

Today I’m visiting Jeffrey at his studio and he has a copy of my first book, Transcending CSS (2005), on his shelf. On page 10 I found that I’d quoted Chris, from May 1994, when he had written:

“If style sheets or similar information are not added to HTML, the inevitable price will be documents that only look good on a particular browser, at a particular window size, with the default fonts etc.”

It struck me immediately how Chris’ quote could be about today’s web as easily as it was about the web twenty years ago. Then, of course, the web was simpler and I doubt that we could’ve imagined the breadth of browsers/devices and ‘window’ sizes that we have to accommodate today.

It also strikes me how we’re doomed to repeat the conversations of the past until we learn the lessons from them.


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