With 2010 started, the new decade has begun. But how did we get to here?

In this article, we’re going to look at the major events from each year in the past decade that have helped develop the web design industry. Try keeping a tab on how many affected you, I bet you’ll run out of fingers quite quickly!


The decade started off poorly for web industries. In the previous 2 or 3 years, the Dot-Com Bubble was a time of rapid growth for companies moving to trade online. In 2000, the bubble burst and many web companies went bust.

phpbb One success story from the middle of all this was a simple bulletin board project. The open-source phpBB system was first made publicly available in July, and today is the most popular free forums system around.


2w5n8erc b2, a primitive blogging system was created under the GPL. If you have a look at its first ever post, you’ll find it’s still characteristic of the default post in its successor; WordPress.

w3c In May, the W3C propose the first Working Draft for CSS 3. The first work on CSS3 was started in 1998, and over a decade on, it’s still a work in progress.

60px-Internet_Explorer_logo_old In August, what would arguably be the most hated piece of software in the decade was released; Internet Explorer 6. At least now, we can start to say goodbye.


friendster Jonathan Abrams founded Friendster in 2002. This popular social networking site was to be the forerunner of countless similar sites, including MySpace and Facebook.

rss The RSS 2.0 specification was released in September. This format (And the later spin-off, Atom) allowed content to be shared independent of formatting, and for it to be manipulated in any way the user chose.


rails During 2003, David Heinemeier began work on Ruby on Rails. This open-source webapp framework has grown to massive popularity and the PHP vs. Ruby on Rails debate is a famous one now.

wp Two years on from the creation of b2 and things weren’t going too well; the core developer had vanished and updates were non-existent. Enter Matt Mullenweg with his thoughts on forking the development, and WordPress was born.

oexh26l2 In June, Jeffrey Zeldman published Designing With Web Standards (Now in its 3rd Edition). This book helped shape the web design industry by providing a compelling justification for companies to work with standards based coding.

a3nnmbly  A List Apart regularly publishes some of the best articles around. One example of this came in 2003 when Patrick Griffiths published his Suckerfish Dropdowns article on creating a light-weight, standards-compliant, accessible dropdown. In a time of DHTML, this was a godsend, and was later followed up by Sons of Suckerfish.

myspace In August, several eUniverse employees (including the world-famous Tom) got together and set up a Friendster-inspired website; MySpace. eUniverse’s massive userbase would give this site the headstart in the early years, but its future adversary wouldn’t be long in coming.

In October, a lonely student at Harvard set up Facemash, a site for comparing pictures of 2 other students to see who looked better. Although quickly closed down, it would be the forerunner for what happened next…


fb In January, our not-so-lonely student took the next step and created Facebook, which Alexa today ranks as the number 2 site in the world.

basecamp Also in the beginning of 2004, 37Signals released Basecamp, a project management tool. 37Signals and their products have since become the poster child for simple design (Not to mention an online success story!)

gmail On April Fool’s Day, Google is well-known for taking part in the jokes over the years. In 2004’s April Fool’s, they announced a free mail service with 1GB of storage. Obviously a joke, Hotmail only gave 2MB…

And on a related note, Gmail was the first example of AJAX being used in a major application. Since then, it’s been used in countless other websites.

Firefox_3.5_logo Towards the end of the year, Version 1.0 of the “Phoenix Project” was released. By this point though, it had been renamed to the much more familiar, Firefox.


sifr In April, Mike Industries released sIFR, a technique for bringing richer typography to the web via Flash.

175px-Macromedia.svg Also in April, Adobe acquired Macromedia for a massive $3.4 billion. Industry standard tools like Fireworks, Dreamweaver and Flash would now be incorporated into the Adobe Creative Suites.

Acid2_reference In October, Safari became the first browser to pass the Acid2 test. The Acid tests were developed to test browser support for web standards and to help encourage all browsers to use the same standards.

a3nnmbly The first ever An Event Apart kicked off in Philadelphia in December. One of the top design conferences in the industry, there have been 17 more events since, with 4 more planned for 2010.


180px-Opera_Mini_logo In January, Opera Mini received a worldwide release. It was created for mobile browsing and claims to be the world’s most popular mobile browser.

Jquerylogo Also in January, JQuery was released at Barcamp NYC by John Resig. Since then it has become the most popular JavaScript library in use today.

yui Come February, Yahoo launched YUI2, a framework for making webapp development easier. YUI3 was released in September 2009, but version 2 still enjoys massive popularity.

adzjy5eu In March, Jack Dorsey published the first ever Tweet. Approaching the end of the decade, the “twttr project” has finally reached profitability (with vowels included).

150px-YouTube_logo.svg In October, Google purchased Youtube for $1.65 billion. That story has inspired countless other web startups.

200px-Microsoft_FrontPage_Icon.svg Microsoft FrontPage was first released in 1997 and aside from horrendous table-based layouts with flashing marquees, the FrontPage Extensions necessary to use features of it on web servers were a nightmare. In December 2006, Microsoft discontinued the product.


Mt-logoBy 2007, MovableType, a proprietary competitor to WordPress, was being left behind as WordPress’ community grew and grew. To help grow their own community, they released a GPL version of MovableType, but still much more restricted than WordPress.

64px-Adobe_AIR_icon In early June 2007, Adobe released Adobe AIR. This runtime environment allowed developers to create desktop apps using web technologies like AJAX and Flash, to run on any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux).

iphone And of course, in June 2007 Steve Jobs presented a rather interesting keynote. An iPhone, you say?

k3eknxlp In November, Amazon launched a new book reader, the Kindle. As web developers, we’re used to our content being available on different mediums, so the Kindle and other eBook readers are an interesting development to watch.


960 In March, the 960 Grid System was released by Nathan Smith. This CSS framework was designed to let you quickly mock-up web layouts using only HTML.

downloadday Since Firefox’s original release in 2004, it had been steadily gaining popularity. A single day in June was to showcase this; on the 17th June, ‘Download Day’, Firefox 3 set a world record by being downloaded over 8 million times in 24 hours.

appstore The iPhone had been released for just one year now and already had a massive following. With the release of the app store in July, the iPhone’s future dominance was all but guaranteed.

xovb3qm0 In the Autumn, the HTC Dream became the first available phone running Google’s Android operating system. Trumped up as an iPhone killer, HTC and other Android phones may not have lived up to that name, but it has certainly gained a massive market share.

64px-Chrome_Logo.svg In December, Google Chrome became publicly available. This web browser is based on WebKit but optimized to put speed first, and with a minimal interface for the user.


buddypress_logoBuddyPress, the WordPress MU-based social network extension was first released in April. It has had strong development even in the short time since then and now packs a lot of features.

200px-Bing_logo.svg In June, Microsoft’s Bing officially went live. Microsoft’s presence in the search industry had been steadily on the downfall, but since Bing and its massive marketing campaign, it has at last seen some growth.

logo Also in June, Less CSS was released by Alexis Sellier and Dmitry Fadeyev. It let’s you write CSS code with variables, operations and nested rules, then compile it into regular old CSS.

In July, the W3C confirmed that when the XHTML 2 team’s working charter expired at the end of the year, it would not be renewed. This allows more resource to go towards the development of HTML 5.

Yahoo!_Geocities In October, Yahoo provided a somewhat fitting end to the decade with the closure of Geocities. Geocities was a lot of people’s first taste of publishing to the internet. Web publishing has come a long, long way since the days of Geocities’ glory in the late 90s.

End of the Noughties

So much has happened in the past 10 years. I doubt anyone in 1999 could have predicted where we would be now. It has to make you wonder where we’ll be come 2020!

If you had to choose one single event that affected the web design industry the most, what would it be?

For me, the web standards movement (Embodied in things like Jeffrey Zeldman’s book, the CSS Zen Garden and many other standards supporters) has had the most profound effect. Curious to hear what your choices will be!

PS – Paul Anthony from Web Ireland has written up a similar post, check it out if you want to see even more events from the decade!

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