1. Background History of CSS Language

In this CSS tutorial, we'll explore the origins and background of the Cascading Style Sheets language. We'll start by understanding the background of CSS language, its history, key recommendations by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the different versions of CSS. Let's dive into the background of CSS and uncover its evolution.

1.1. The Origin of CSS Programming

  • In the early days of the internet, web designers faced significant challenges in controlling the appearance of web pages.
  • The demand for the styling of the web-pages appeared soon after Tim Berners Lee drafted the HTML in 1991.
  • HTML, the markup language used to create web pages, lacked sufficient styling capabilities which led to the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) as a solution to the problem.
  • Also, the idea was to achieve more control over web pages by separating the content from appearance.
  • Therefore, Håkon Wium Lie started working on the cascading stylesheets with Tim Berners Lee and Robert Cailliau at CERN.
  • Eventually, the first version of CSS was released in December 1996.
Developed by W3C
Founder Håkon Wium Lie
Opensource Yes
File Extension .css
Media Type text/css
Developed By W3C
Initial Release December 1996
Stable Release April 2016
Developed AT CERN Labs
Latest Version CSS4

2. How CSS Language Evolved?

The following portion of this tutorial explores the CSS language's historical background, marking a significant milestone in its development.

2.1. Before CSS

  • The concept of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) originated in the early 1990s.
  • Several style sheet languages were proposed before CSS emerged as the dominant standard like DSSSL and FOSI.
  • In 1993, a compact version of the NCSA Mosaic acquired fame for a short period, but soon it became unpopular because it supported only a limited styling, like font color, font size, etc.
  • CSS was developed within the evolving landscape of web development during that period.
  • Various individuals contributed to the discussions and proposals surrounding the creation of CSS.
  • Web developers faced challenges in effectively styling web documents before the introduction of CSS.
  • Therefore, with the surging demand, Tim Berners Lee laid the foundation of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in October 1994, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • W3C releases standard recommendations for HTML and CSS and ensures a smooth web experience among different web browsers.

2.2. Initial Release

  • After the foundation of W3C, a group of people commenced running after the development of CSS.
  • Hakon Wium Lie proposed the very first draft of HTML Cascading Style Sheets in October 1994.
  • Lie collaborated with Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN during the development of CSS.
  • Soon after that, nine proposals about stylesheets were submitted.
  • During the discussions, it was proposed to develop a universal stylesheet language, that anyone can utilize for whatever the markup language is.
  • This idea was clicked and the term "HTML" was removed from the name.
  • Thus, the first official W3C CSS Recommendation, known as CSS1, was released in 1996.
  • Bert Bos also played a vital role in developing the initial CSS specifications and was known as the CSS co-author.
  • It took 3 years for any web browser to thoroughly implement the CSS style sheets.
  • In 1996, Microsoft became the first to fully implement the stylesheets in Internet Explorer.


During the development of CSS, Netscape was a popular browser. It incorporated a javascript stylesheet within its browser. However, it did not gain popularity and is now deprecated.

3. W3C Recommendations For CSS

Moving to the next section in this CSS tutorial is to discuss the various recommendations released by W3C. As explained in the HTML history article, there were fights among the browsers to dominate the market. Hence, these fights led them towards proprietary tags.

In turn, there was a difficulty for the developers to consistently create the stylesheets. However, certain developers have hacks to implement the style sheets with consistency in any browser. But it was very painful and demanded hard work.

Therefore, W3C released the SOPs of HTML and CSS for the browsers and the developers to make the development consistent.

3.1. W3C Recommendations in CSS1

The very first draft of recommendations by W3C was made in 1996. Although this release initially minimized the headache of developers, a little bit. After this release, W3C formulated a group to work on CSS recommendations and implementations particularly. This may also be called as CSS1 or level 1.

W3C no longer releases or maintains the support for CSS1.
Cascading Style Sheets CSS1 or Level 1 Supports List
  • Font properties
  • Text attributes
  • Text alignment
  • Tables support
  • Images support
  • Text Colors
  • Content Background
  • Words Spacing
  • Letters Spacing
  • Line Spacing
  • Margins
  • Borders
  • Padding
  • Positioning

3.2. W3C Recommendations in CSS2

With the passage of time and increasing the use of stylesheets, new challenges came ahead. Therefore, to overcome the problems, W3C released some new recommendations in May 1998. This version was named as CSS2 or Level 2.

W3C no longer maintains level 2 recommendations.
Cascading Style Sheets CSS2 or Level 2 Supports List
  • Z-index support
  • Media Types
  • Bi-directional Text
  • Absolute Positioning
  • Relative Positioning
  • Fixed Positioning
  • Aural Stylesheets support
  • Shadows

3.3. W3C Recommendations in CSS2.1

  • W3C released the CSS 2.1 recommendation, which fixed minor bugs and better adjustments with the browsers in 2011.
  • This version maintained CSS2 and removed poorly supported features.
  • CSS2.1 was named as Candidate Recommendations in February 2005 and this status was reverted in June 2005 as a working draft.
  • CSS2.1 again qualified for a Candidate Master in 2007 and again went back to the working draft in 2010, due to changes and modifications in supports
  • Furthermore, CSS2.1 was planned to be the last working and maintained draft of CSS2.
  • Later in 2015, low-priority work began on CSS2.2 for further improvements.

3.4. W3C Recommendations in CSS3

Level 3] or CSS3 recommendations by W3C were produced in different modules. Unlike CSS2 or CSS2.1, which have a single draft with various specifications, CSS3 is divided into 4 modules. W3C released four modules between 2011 and 2012 for better support of browsers. All the modules define or extend the features of CSS2 or CSS2.1 which is a backward compatibility modification.

W3C still maintains level 3 recommendations.
Cascading Style Sheets CSS3 or Level 3 Supports List
  1. Selectors Level 3
  2. Box Model
  3. Backgrounds and Borders
  4. Text Effects
  5. 2D & 3D Transforms
  6. Transitions and Animations
  7. Multiple Column Layout
  8. Flexbox Layout
  9. Grid Layout
  10. Media Queries
  11. Namespaces
  12. Combinators

3.5. W3C Recommendations, CSS4

In a similar way to CSS3, CSS4 also has no single specification. However, it has its level 4 or CSS4 modules. A few module features of CSS3 exist in CSS4, however, the rest of the features or supports are brand new. CSS4 or level 4 is still in development and continuously updated with the latest features.

W3C still maintains level 4 recommendations.
Cascading Style Sheets CSS4 or Level 4 Supports List
  1. Selectors Level 4
  2. Media Queries Level 4
  3. Variables
  4. Grid Layout Level 2
  5. Flexbox Level 2
  6. Text Level 4
  7. Color Level 4
  8. Animations
  9. Transitions
  10. Filters
  11. Scroll Snap
  12. Scroll Anchoring

4. CSS Versions History

This section provides a history of all stable releases of the CSS language, also known as W3C recommendations or levels. The list includes the release dates for each version.

Name Date
CSS1 or Level 1 December 17, 1996
CSS2 or Level 2 May 1998
CSS2.1 2004
CSS3 or Level 3 June 1999
CSS4 2015


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