A decade (or so)

During the last couple of months I’ve written several versions of my resume for various job applications. Some of which I’ve submitted, some which I haven’t, and some that I’m still thinking about. But in all of them I’ve noticed one recurring theme. It’s already a bit over a decade from when I made my first web page.

Try as I might I can’t remember exactly when my first foray into HTML and the web development was submitted to public scrutiny. I remember that it was in the autumn of 1994 when a friend of mine got his own server in the University of Joensuu’s network and gave me a user account on it (it was an old DEC). Initially I used it for email and IRC, but soon I heard of this new thing called the World Wide Web. I was a senior in high school at the time. And one of the class nerds (both of us are in IT still).

It’s a odd feeling to be under thirty and think back at the old days. I won’t say good old days. But there is a lot of Internet history that I remember. But what I remember most is when I really started to fiddle around with web development and tried to figure out what can and can’t be done with HTML. At that time HTML 2 was out, HTML 3.2 was being worked on and emerging, and Internet Explorer 3.0 was already making a mess of things. Yes, we’re talking about late 1996/early 1997 here.

Even then I felt that open standards as those created by the W3C were the only way to go. After all, I was living strongly in Linux land at the time and none of the fancy plugins were available to me (even thought they were created for Netscape). The browser wars were a no-brainer for me. My choice was clear — Netscape and later on Mozilla. Yes, I complied the first versions available — no, I haven’t hacked at the code.

From Mozilla I switched to Galeon and back to Mozilla for several times. I tested Opera every now and then (but it had those stupid ads…). When Phoenix first came out I tested it and went back to whatever I was using at the time. When Phoenix changed to Firebird I was just about ready to switch. Slightly before the change from Firebird to Firefox I made my final switch to the current browsing configuration I have now: Firefox for everything except the odd test in Internet Explorer (various versions).

I was active in upgrading my browser to the latest version available – if only to try to get CSS support to work a bit better. I remember working on my first CSS sites in 1998 and cursing the stupid browsers that didn’t support it well enough. I’ve been an early adopter all the time and learned the standards the hard way: by reading the specs and trial-and-error.

I won’t even go to all of the various versions of my homepages that I’ve built. The first version was very early-web: a single picture of me and some text with links. When I started browsing the web more, the amount of links increased and there was even some more content. Back then no-one really cared about privacy so much — usernames and finger data were readily available. I also remember the days of table-based layouts (out of necessity, see above) and images as menu buttons. And weird backgrounds. But I was never guilty of Comic Sans or blinking text. I do have some sort of taste ;)

The current wave of CSS-based design with clean and usable interfaces is a joy for me. I still cringe at the thought of most sites in the late 90s. The web has come a long way in the last decade — both content and design wise. I can just wait to see what the next decade will bring. And maybe I’ll get my fingers and brain in gear and do something about the future myself as well.

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