1. What is CSS History?

First of all, this CSS tutorial converges on the history of Cascading StyleSheets language. Moving on, this tutorial is about to learn a short background of CSS, a brief CSS history, several recommendations by W3C, and the history of CSS versions. So, let's begin digging some information about the background of the CSS language.

Tutorial Contents:

  1. Backgrounnd of CSS Language
  2. How CSS Language was Created?
  3. W3C Proposed Recommendations For CSS
  4. Historical Versions of CSS Language

1.1. A Little Background of CSS Language

Primarily, the demand for the styling of web-pages appeared soon after Tim Berners Lee drafted the HTML in 1991. Originally, the idea was to build web-pages for the researchers to share their documents by the use of this markup language. Meanwhile, there was a deficiency in the styling of web pages. Also, the idea was to achieve more control over web pages by separating the content from styling. 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 got released in December 1996. See the table below to look at the historical aspects of CSS.

Website www.w3.org
Founder Håkon Wium Lie
Opensource Yes
File Extension .css
Media Type text/css
Developed By W3C
Initial Release December 1996
Developed AT CERN Labs
Latest Version CSS4

2. Steps in Creation of CSS Language

The next section of this tutorial is to learn some facts about CSS history that laid its foundation. Since the early HTML documents contained the markup with unattractive content. Also, if there were any styling on certain web-pages, that was mainly inline or on-page. Therefore, in 1994 CSS development began when the HTML was deeply evolved into the worldwide web.

2.1. W3C Foundation

In 1993, a compact version of the NCSA Mosaic acquired fame for a short period. However, soon it became unpopular because it supported only a limited styling, like fonts color, fonts size, etc. Therefore, with the surging demand, Tim Berners Lee laid the foundation of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in October 1994, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. W3C releases recommendations for HTML and CSS and ensures the smooth web experience among different web browsers.

2.2. Initial Release

While after the foundation of W3C, a group of people commenced running after this project. Hakon Wium Lie proposed the very first draft of HTML Cascading Style Sheets in October 1994. 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. So, this idea goes clicked and the term "HTML" was removed from the name. Although, 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 stylesheets within its browser. But it did not gain popularity and 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 lead the market. Hence, these fights led them towards proprietary tags. In turn, there was a difficulty for the developers to consistently create the stylesheets. Although, certain developers got 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, CSS1

The very first recommendations by W3C was made in 1996. This release initially minimized the burden of developers, although, a little bit. After this release, W3C formulated a group to particularly work for CSS recommendations and implementations. This may also be called as CSS level 1 or first level. Also, W3C no longer release or maintain the supports for CSS1. Following supports was released in that recommendation: 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, 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. Further, W3C no longer maintains level 2 recommendations. It has following supports for the browsers and also for developers: 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, CSS2.1

In 2011, W3C released CSS 2.1, which fixed minor bugs and better adjustment with the browsers. 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. Due to changes and modifications in supports, it again went back to the working draft in 2010. Furthermore, CSS2.1 was planned to be the last working and maintained draft of CSS2. Later in 2015, a low priority work began on CSS2.2 for further improvements.

3.4. W3C Recommendations, CSS3

Level 3 or CSS3 recommendations by W3C was 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 supports of browsers. All the modules define or extend the features of CSS2 or CSS2.1 which is backward compatibility modification. The first draft of CSS3 was published in 1999.

3.5. W3C Recommendations, CSS4

In a similar way to CSS3, CSS4 also has no single specification. However, it has its own 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. The simplest example of a newly formed feature of CSS4 is Flexbox. CSS4 or level4 is still in development and continuously updated with the latest features.

4. CSS Versions History

This section lists all the CSS versions along with their release date. Following is a list of all the stable releases of CSS also known as W3C recommendations or levels:

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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