HTML, CSS, and Web Development Practices: Past, Present, and Future

Published on October 15, 2009 (↻ February 5, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved ebook: On Web Development.

The following is the more detailed alternative version of today’s talk at Teaching the Web, Potsdam. While blog posts occasionally get updated, this one might not.


  1. The Ideal World
  2. The Past (1990-1999)
    1. Standards
    2. Development Practices
    3. Problems
  3. The Present (2000-2009)
    1. Standards
    2. Development Practices
    3. Problems
  4. The Future (2010-2019)
    1. Standards
    2. Development Practices
    3. Problems
  5. Priorities for Web Developers
  6. Development Practices Compared

The Ideal World

Web development practices, the ideal situation.

Figure: Shiny, maintainable web development world. Structure, presentation, and behavior all separated except for some minor overlap with respect to integration (style sheet references in HTML documents, for instance) and interfaces (scripts manipulating documents in a smart manner).

The Past (1990-1999)


Development Practices

Web development practices in the past (around 1999).

Figure: Heaps of presentational markup taking care of what would be the job of style sheets; scripts manipulating document contents but also eyes, thus overlapping both structure and presentation.


The Present (2000-2009)


Development Practices

Web development practices in the present (2009).

Figure: Behavior moving over to manipulate more documents in an obtrusive fashion (also known as AJAX; pun intended); structure overlapping less presentation, as authors learn to use less presentational markup.


The Future (2010-2019)


Development Practices

Web development practices in the future (around 2019/2020).

Figure: Behavior backing off a bit, minding its own business a bit more; authors learning to separate even more structure, presentation, and behavior, without being quite there yet (aka “the ideal world”).


Priorities for Web Developers

Development Practices Compared

Web development practices, a comparison of the past, the present, the future, and the ideal situation we envision.

Figure: Bubbles all over the place; authors using less presentational markup and manipulating documents and styling-related aspects in a less wild fashion over time.

Many thanks to Asim Janjua for his work on the talk’s visuals.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On October 16, 2009, 5:10 CEST, John Foliot said:

    Nicely done Jens, a good read; must have been a great presentation. If you find yourself back in the Bay area any time soon, come and give the talk on campus. (Please)

  2. On October 20, 2009, 14:06 CEST, sriganesh said:

    Very detail and new information for me.  😂

  3. On October 20, 2009, 20:01 CEST, Jens Oliver Meiert said:

    John, thank you… would love to say hi (and give the talk again in California)!

  4. On April 27, 2010, 8:46 CEST, Melanie Brown said:

    I believe web development is getting more and more advanced nowadays, and I think advancements always go for the good. It’s like the rushing water in pool fountains, no one can stop it from continuously flowing. However, we have also to regulate it, like make its pace slower coz only a few can keep up.