Twenty Years on the Web

March 8, 2015

Last night, I watched the documentary, Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 years of Web Design and Community. In a lot of ways, a look at Jeffrey’s life is to look at the history of the Web industry. I realized as I was watching it that I have now been using the Internet for 20 years.

It was in February of 1995 that I got my first email account through Kansas State University. My wife and I had just moved to Manhattan to work in campus ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ. And because of our relationship with the university, we were able to enjoy the privilege of getting an email account through them.

For that first year, we could only access our email by using a computer in one of the many computer labs on campus. Later, I spent some time looking at websites in Netscape Navigator. Of course, there were always people waiting to use the computers so I always felt under pressure to not spend too much time on the computer. So Web surfing in those days was a lot different experience than when I could access the Web through my own personal computer, which did not happen until the summer of 1997.

It was during that summer that I learned how to write HTML and make a website. HTML was at version 3.2 and I was introduced to the other major browser at the time, Internet Explorer 3. I learned how to build websites through Dave Taylor’s book, Creating Cool HTML4 Web Pages. Little did I know that what started as a hobby and creative outlet would intersect with my career path and bring me to where I am today.

So I enjoyed watching the video because I remember a lot of the things that Jeffrey talks about of how our industry evolved. I also came away with a greater appreciation for the contributions that Jeffrey has made over the years. I think he is one of those pioneers that set the tone and value of sharing what he was learning with others which has been invaluable to so many of us learning and growing together as we share our knowledge with one another. It is something that really sets our industry apart.

I am grateful to Jeffrey for giving us:

  • Web Standards – Everyday I am affected by the work that Jeffrey first gave a voice to around the time that I started making websites. I made websites before Web standards really took hold in the industry. I appreciate how standards changed the landscape and direction of Web development that has allowed me to make a career of something that I enjoy doing so much. I had the privilege of working on Web Standards Sherpa for over a year. Sherpa continues the mission of educating and equipping Web practitioners to implement standard friendly solutions.
  • A List Apart – Over the years it has been an invaluable resource to me as I have read articles on technique and craft in my earlier days. Now I am inspired more by their pieces that help shape overall thinking and philosophy of the work we do.
  • A Book Apart – Short books that address emerging trends or techniques in the industry. Some of the most influential ideas in our industry have been addressed by their authors.
  • An Event Apart – I have never had the privilege of attending one of these events but I have attended other conferences that I am sure were inspired by these events. I have also benefitted from emerging ideas in our industry that started off as An Event Apart talk.

Thanks Jeffrey for all that you have contributed to our community. Thank you for the talented people that you gave a voice to that have shaped and continue to shape our community. Thanks for sharing what you were learning and helping to create a culture of openness and shared knowledge that sets our industry apart from so many others.

Related post: My history with the Web and making websites

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