A chronicle of the Ages of the Web

Published January 24, 2007. Filed under: Pedantics, Web standards.

Sometime pretty soon (in fact, in the very next thing I write), I’m going to need some consistent way to refer to different periods in the history of the Web. I don’t know of any widely-accepted chronology for this, and I especially don’t know of any which really fits with the sort of references I’m going to need to make, so, with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, I present my own chronicle, derived from one too many nights of having re-read The Lord of the Rings when I should have been working on a site.

Please keep in mind that this is by no means intended to be comprehensive or even all that accurate; it’s merely here so I can refer back to it later when I want to talk about different periods of history and have people understand what I’m trying to say. Also, I’ll likely be fleshing this out as I go, revising and expanding as needed to make things fit properly; it is by no means a finished product.

The First Age

This Age began around 1990, when Sir Tim created the Web. It was at first an idyllic period; the first to come into the Web were pure in heart and noble in purpose, and they wrought mighty works and developed many new and useful arts. The light of the Eldest of Browsers shone on all from its haven in (of all places) Illinois.

But the peace would not last; other Powers were gathering who would wrest that light from its creators and bend it to their wills. Thus the Eldest of Browsers passed out of the Web for ever, though its light is preserved in the lines of the two Browsers which came after.

At the closing of the First Age, many of the peoples of the Web were locked in the walled citadels of the Great Enemies, but a great host rose up and overthrew them, and the peoples of the Web were at last free to browse where they would.

The Second Age

This Age began in 1996, when Siegel visited the greatest of the Web-smiths and taught them a new art. The skill of the Web-smiths waxed, and at their height they forged the Tables of Power.

At first the Tables were fair to look upon, and those who wielded them thought to use their power for good; but they were all of them betrayed, for they were in the end tempted, seduced and finally enslaved by the power of the Tables, and became helpless, loving and hating the Tables as they loved and hated themselves. Few were able to resist, and a great shadow fell over the Web.

It was toward the end of this Age that the Wizards first revealed themselves on the Web.

The Third Age

This Age dates from 2001, when, at the urging of a Wizard, the remaining free peoples of the Web rallied and ultimately formed the Last Alliance of Designers and Vendors. Thus the War of the Tables began in earnest.

This war has been long, and hard-fought, but the shadow is now lifted from the Web, and the power of the Tables has been broken; the Three-Legged-Stool that was broken has been re-made, and the once-mighty strongholds of the Enemy are falling, one by one. We live now in the closing days of the Third Age; the passing of the Tables is at hand, and soon they shall fade from the Web.

The Fourth Age

Though it is not yet fully begun, the Fourth Age will see the coming of the dominion of Standards, and the return of the Technologies in Exile. The line of the Kings of JavaScript, whose land had foundered after they fell into evil ways, shall rise again, and surpass the glory it knew in previous times. The Wizards who opposed the Enemy in the Third Age are fading, and a new generation, born free and never having known the shadow of the Tables, shall come to power and once again mighty works shall be wrought in the Web.