I’ve turned 10

Today marks the official day that I have been a professional web developer for 10 years!

That's a lot of buttons pushed, a lot of mice clicked and a lot of clients charmed. That's a lifetime in dog years. Its several lifetimes in internet years.

It got me thinking about how much has changed in the industry over these years. The industry moves forward so fast that I’m always caught up with what new technology I should be learning, not what technologies have faded away.

When I started the technology landscape was very different to the way it is now. Web 2.0 was the new buzzword although nobody could really define what it was. Real geeks of the era got their news via feeds through an RSS feed reader. Facebook was still only available to uni students, MySpace was rocking the social scene. Twitter and Tumblr weren't launched. YouTube was just over a year old.

We were just entering into the second browser wars, Firefox 2.0 was the hot new contender to the Internet Explorer throne. Chrome wasn't going to be a glimmer in Google's eye until two years later in late 2008 and it didn't overtake Firefox until 2011. When I started, I still had to test sites to make sure they worked in Firefox, IE6 and IE5.5 before they could be sent off to clients. There was no such thing as "in private" browsing. Embedded Java applets were still a thing. Splash pages with Flash animations were still clinging on. Ticker tape animations and custom mouse pointer icons were still acceptable. JavaScript was a silly side language for popups and altering your status bar text (although VBScript was long dead thankfully). I can’t even remember how many failed Internet Explorer integration points have come and gone (Active Desktop, Web Slices, Pinned Sites, Tiles… what else have I missed?).

I’ve also seen the rise of web typography, allowing font’s to be embedded into web pages. I remember all the legal kerfuffle when the font studios didn’t move with the times and still had restrictive licenses, and when Google stepped in and made it all nice and simple for us.

Broadband internet had pretty much hit the mainstream by 2006 but this was still a time of dial-up so we had a small file size budget. I’ve been trying to remember what I aimed for and I think it was about 150k for a page, it was considered heavy if it went close to that. This was before the jQuery era of including tons of 3rd party scripts in a page though. I don't think CSS and JavaScript were fast enough to run animated slideshows back then.

The world was just moving away from table based designs over to CSS tableless designs. I actually made my first tableless CSS website a week before my interview at DBS and was quite worried that I wouldn't be able to hold my own in a professional environment. At that time it was all still CSS 2.1 though. I actually just deleted a file the other day with a last-modified dated to 2005 which had some advanced new CSS3 rounded forms features! Of course, this was a Firefox only CSS prefixed feature back then.

I was developing in Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 (which was still to be later bought out by Adobe). I’d already passed through the era of using Notepad and then Microsoft FrontPage before I turned pro.

For years I built all of my pages so that they would validate against the W3C standards compliant validator and I included accessibility features such as high contrast modes for colour blind people and large print mode for people with poor eyesight. I only stopped when the W3C standards lagged so far behind that it was no longer a point of pride to be restricted by it. Over time, web browsers incorporated better built-in tools for browsing with disabilities so my accessibility improvements were also superseded. I tested the page with images turned off (older browsers would give up loading images after a timeout on slow connections, plus some dial up users disabled them for faster browsing) and ensured that all background graphics also had background colours set. I also tested the large print mode to make sure I didn't accidentally set a font size in px (because IE6 wouldn't scale the font size no matter what you did then). Despite their popularity I never used any CSS hacks to smooth over cross browser inconsistencies, as they could be patched in a future version and break the site. I thought if a client paid for a product they shouldn't be handed a ticking time bomb that would need patching. We never once came across a new client in the wild that had an existing website which met all these quality checkpoints. As a result, I was always proud of the work that I produced, even if the clients had no idea of the production quality they had received under the hood.

Geocities was still clinging on, WebRings were waning in popularity. MSN Messenger was still a thing; I got busted several times for chatting to my friends with it on work computers.

Content management systems were still in their youth. WordPress, Mambo, Joomla and Drupal were all slugging it out still in 2006, with no clear winner. Setting them up on a server was a complicated task of paths, permissions and database configurations, there weren't any 1-click installers in those days.

The main free-hosting accounts were basic html servers and if you were lucky you would get SSI (server side includes) so you didn't have to use frames, and a perl-powered cgi-bin folder that you could process your form-to-mail script in. Domain names were still a luxury and it was common to see peoples websites hosted on their internet providers servers with names like demon.net.uk/~someuser331.

Google has always dominated my professional career, but back in 2006 other players were still competing. Bing was still MSN Search, Yahoo was still actually indexing pages. Ask Jeeves still existed but rarely produced valuable results. Search Engine Optimisation still involved buying dashed domains, writing keywords tags and doing keyword stuffing in the footers.

I was still using Winamp and scrobbling my tunes with AudioScrobbler (now Last.fm). I had friends on ICQ and IRC and I still preferred PaintShop Pro over Photoshop.

Responsive design wasn't a thing until quite late in my career. The iPhone came out in 2007, Android in 2008, but the mobile internet revolution didn't really get started until about 2011, and it wasn't until 2013 that the first "year of responsive design" was declared.

My work desktop has gone from Windows XP up to Windows 8.1, moving from a single 17" crt monitor up to the three 19" bad boys I have today. I've taught my desk some new tricks, it can now "stand" as well as "sit" but it's forgotten how to have drawers in the process.

My mouse would still have stayed the same as it always was but my beloved Microsoft Intellimouse was viciously killed off when Microsoft discontinued it sometime around 2012. Being left handed meant that I've always had a limited choice of mouse to choose from so I was always faithful to this brand. Also because of the amazing build quality I didn't go to purchase any new ones and realise they had been discontinued until about a year later - way after the last of the stock had been sold. Eventually I took a chance on a Steel Series Kana v2 which after a short period of adjusting to the new side buttons has become a welcome tool in my hand.

I actually still have the same Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard that I've had for well over 15 years now I think. It's never failed me and despite my casual searches I've never seen a mechanical keyboard that has quite the right layout for me (I want the UK layout, with double height enter button, and some multimedia buttons like volume and a calc button - and I don't want it to look like some techno-future-bot).

So... if you've read this far then you must be a fellow geek. What was the latest technologies that you remember from when you first became a pro-developer?

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