The World Wide Web Consortium Issues Cascading Style Sheets Recommendation

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CSS1 offers fast, easy way to manage web site look and feel

Testimonials | Fact Sheet


CAMBRIDGE, MASS., USA -- December 17, 1996 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today issued a Recommendation for Web style sheets. The Recommendation - Cascading Style Sheets, level 1 (CSS1) - gives Web designers a robust set of tools to help them specify Web page presentation properties such as fonts, colors and margins. Through links, CSS1 allows a single style sheet to apply to all Web pages on a site and thereby dramatically simplifying Web site maintenance. Also, a style sheet can be put inside a Web document and in detail specify how the document is presented. W3C Members have reviewed the CSS1 specification and support its adoption by the industry.

Microsoft and other software vendors have products that support CSS1; Netscape, Adobe, SoftQuad and Grif are among the W3C Members who will be adding support for CSS1 in their upcoming software releases.

With Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) content providers do not have the control they have in print media over color, text indentation, positioning, and other aspects of style. Today CSS1 offers a powerful and manageable way for authors, artists and typographers to specify the visual presentation of an HTML document or collection of documents.

"The Web's main document format, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), was intentionally designed as a simple language that valued document structure over document presentation. However, with the commercialization of the Web, presentation of Web documents is becoming increasingly critical," said Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the W3C and creator of the World Wide Web. "CSS1 brings HTML authoring to the next level by effectively combining the structure and content of Web pages with powerful presentation capabilities. We look forward to the industry's further adoption of CSS1."

"CSS1 is a powerful tool. It can alter the look and feel of an entire web site simply by changing a single style sheet," said Håkon Lie, co-architect of CSS1. "CSS1 makes it very much easier to maintain a consistent style throughout the entire Web site. At the same time, CSS1 enables rich individual expressions that Web designers will appreciate."

Creative web designers have tried to bypass HTML's limitations by using images of text, which look like good typography but result in documents that cannot be searched, fed to speech synthesizers for visually impaired users, and do not print well. They have also used non-portable proprietary HTML extensions to gain control of spacing, and tables to simulate margins and indents. CSS1 allows designers to directly express the appearance they seek while retaining device-indepedent document structure, reusability, searchability and accessibility for the disabled.

"By separating the structure from the visual presentation of documents, we ensure the documents created today can also be displayed on the presentation devices of tomorrow," said Bert Bos, co-architect of CSS1. "HTML has become a universal storage format that will outlast current computers. CSS1, when used correctly, assures that documents can be preserved without sacrificing aesthetics on the Web."

It is expected that other specifications will build on CSS1 to provide support for Web fonts, speech style sheets, extended layout and printing capabilities. Also, W3C is actively working with its members to ensure that script-based applications can take advantage of style sheets. For example, a script attached to a Web page may dynamically alter properties, such as color, set in a CSS1 style sheet.

Please see attached fact sheet and testimonials document for additional information on CSS1.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The W3C was created to develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and promote the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users; reference code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date 156 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see

About the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science

Now in its third decade, MIT LCS is dedicated to the invention, development and understanding of information technologies expected to drive substantial technical and socio-economic change. The LCS has helped information technology grow from a mere curiosity to 10 percent of the industrial world's economies by its pioneering efforts in interactive computing, computer networking, distributed systems and public key cryptography. LCS members and alumni have started some thirty companies and have pioneered the Nubus, the X-Window System, the RSA algorithm, the Ethernet and spreadsheets.

For more information about the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, see

About the Instiut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique

INRIA, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, is a public-sector scientific institute charged with conducting both fundemental and applied research, and with transferring research results to industry. INRIA is made up of five Research Units located at Rocquencourt (near Paris), Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Nancy and Grenoble. Areas of current research include information processing, advanced high speed networking, structured documents, and scientific computation.

For more information about INRIA, see

About Keio University

Keio University is one of Japan's foremost computer science research centers and universities. It is one of the oldest private universities in Japan, and has five major campuses around Tokyo. Keio University has been promoting joint research projects in cooperation with industry, government and international organizations, and is now becoming one of the research leaders for the network and digital media technology.

For more information on Keio University, see

For information on CSS1 in particular, see


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CSS1 Testimonials


"The Web has been starved for well-designed graphical layout and presentation extensions. We've had too many arbitrary and poor extensions to the basic language of the Web, HTML. Cascading Style Sheets is a solid architecture that provide immediate answers to Web designers' request for rich styles, and is also a foundation we can build upon in the future. Microsoft was excited to commercially introduce CSS1 earlier this year, and even more excited to deliver CSS1 Advanced with the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 4."

-- John Ludwig, Vice President of Internet Client and Collaboration Tools, Microsoft


"Consistent with Adobe's mission to deliver tools that allow users to create compelling on-line content, a forthcoming version of Adobe FrameMaker will incorporate export to HTML with support for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS streamlines the HTML authoring process and will help FrameMaker users deliver more effective on-line messages by providing more control over the appearance of Web pages."

-- Sandra Knox, Product Marketing Manager, On-line Publishing, Adobe Systems


"Hewlett Packard is very pleased to support the W3C's Cascading Style Sheets specification. We believe CSS is the right approach to adding style to HTML documents, and we look forward to working with the W3C to extend CSS to support great printing of HTML documents."

-- Mark Gasteen, Manager, HP Labs E-Business Programme, Hewlett Packard


"We are proud of our ongoing role in the development of standards for interoperability on the World Wide Web and corporate intranets. Style sheets, together with the structure information markup provided by HTML 3.2, enable increasingly rich forms of graphic presentation and personalized views of information. SoftQuad remains a leader in providing products that utilize Web standards such as CSS1. SoftQuad HoTMetaL intranet Publisher (H.i.P.), a product tailored for intranet publishing, uses CSS1 in a new creative way. Through CSS1, the H.i.P. viewer supports personal views of information so that users see only the parts of a document that are pertinent to them. Both H.i.P. and our upcoming release of SoftQuad HoTMetaL PRO offer a convenient style sheet editor with CSS1 support to ensure that documents display as the publisher intended."

--Murray Maloney, Technical Director, SoftQuad Inc.


"Grif is a strong supporter of W3C's ongoing efforts to develop and implement the definition of a common style sheet format for HTML documents. Open solutions and standards like CSS1 offer significant advantages over the numerous proprietary solutions, which currently exist on the Web. We are pleased to be involved in the implementation of the CSS1 Recommendation and will continue to develop support for CSS1 in Grif Symposia Pro Web Publisher."

--Bertrand Mélèse, President, Grif


"Finally we can interact on the Web with elegance and style! This is a natural and long awaited step in augmenting the ease-of-use of the Web at the same time as we get augmented search and indexing capabilities and potentially less bandwidth waste. The latter is one crucial part for building an efficient mobile and ubiquitous Web."

-- Staffan Liljeren, Research Manager, Media Lab, Ericsson


"Adopting a standard for style sheets is essential for Web content developers to feel comfortable implementing them. Style sheets will make it easier to format Web pages and maintain Web sites. Web designers will have greater flexibility in creating page presentations. Users will also benefit as better page design and greater consistency will make Web sites easier to use."

-- Dale Dougherty, President, Songline Studios, an Affiliate of O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.


"The Cascading Style Sheets Recommendation is a big step forward by allowing authors and publishers to express their intent by setting the presentation of a document. The Reed-Elsevier plc group, being a full member of W3C, supports the implementation of CSS1 and will utilise it to style its documents when appropriate."

-- Herbert van Zijl, Deputy Head of Information Technology Development, Reed-Elsevier


"All the hard work on Cascading Style Sheets is finally paying off. The unilateral, a-la-carte approach to releasing new HTML tags has caused web designers more pain and suffering than necessary, with minor symptomatic relief. I support instead the peer-reviewed, Consortium-driven approach to standardizing HTML and CSS, so my clients can be assured that their money goes into design, not into working around cross-platform, cross-version compatibility issues. I support Microsoft and Netscape in working with the W3C to make this a reality. The Web will be safer for designers if the W3C helps mediate the browser wars. Cascading Style Sheets is a giant step in the right direction."

--David Siegel, President, Studio Verso


"CSS is an important new technology which gives content providers more of the tools they need to create an excellent user experience. Spyglass will continue to support the W3C's efforts in further advancement of CSS as the right vehicle for fine control over Web page layout."

-- Eric W. Sink, Software Engineering Manager, Spyglass


"I whole-heartedly support the CSS1 specification and look forward its broad and speedy implementation among many vendors. This will significantly simplify the construction and maintenance of large groups of related HTML documents. The separation of content from recomend rendering is consistent with good SGML, makes Web space more manageable, and lays down a good foundation for easily adapting documents to new forms (e.g., for the visually impaired). Our Information Architecture Project is committed to including CSS1 in our Laboratory Standard HTML as soon as it becomes more widely implemented."

-- Tad Lane, Information Architecture Standards Editor, Los Alamos National Laboratory


"Netskills, a leading networking training group based at Newcastle University, have been early developers of training materials in the use of style sheets. Stylesheets not only provide greater control over the appearance of documents on the Web, they also can reduce the maintenance costs for those responsible for managing large numbers of documents. Graphic Designers will value the control over the appearance that stylesheets will provide, while webmasters will appreciate minimising the numbers of files to maintain. No more running Unix scripts over many thousands of files to updated a dated mid-1990s look! "

--Brian Kelly, UK National Web Coordinator

CSS1 Fact Sheet


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) issued a Recommendation for Web style sheets December, 1996. The Recommendation, Cascading Style Sheets, level 1 (CSS1), gives Web designers a robust set of tools to specify Web page presentation properties such as fonts and colors.

Key Characteristics & Benefits

Enables Author and End User Control

CSS allows both authors and end users to specify style sheets and control presentation characteristics, such as font and color. Most often, end users will be happy to use the style sheets suggested by the author, but sometimes the end user will have personal preferences. For example, visually impaired users may want to use a large font with high contrast colors.

The style sheet mechanism combines the different style sheets into one presentation. In case of conflicts between the user and author style sheets, the author will have ultimate control. However, the user also can choose to turn off author style sheets.

Smaller, Faster Documents

On the Web today, it's common to make images of text in order to control fonts and colors. Images use much more bandwidth than text, and the perceived slowness of the Web can in part be attributed to this practice. CSS1, while allowing authors to express the same rich styles, is text-based so pages using CSS1 are smaller and load faster than comparable image-based pages.

Easy Web site maintenance

By linking multiple documents -- even all documents on a site -- to one style sheet, maintaining consistent look and feel throughout a site becomes much simpler. To change the appearance of documents, like altering the background texture, changes only need to be made in one place.

Allows document re-use

While HTML extensions often replaced the document structure with purely presentational tags, CSS1 attaches style information to the document structure. Preserving document structure means that documents remain device independent, and Web search engines can do a better job indexing the documents. It also allows the same documents to be viewed on different media such as print, speech, and television.

New Design Tools

Web designers constantly look for ways to add new effects to their documents. While the main focus of CSS1 is to establish the concept of style sheets on the Web, it also adds new formatting capabilities. For example, CSS1 allows designers to set background colors and images on a per element basis, and have text elements floating like images can float. Also, among the advanced features of CSS1 are word-spacing, letter-spacing and text justification.


For CSS1 to gain acceptance on the Web, it's important to have support in common browsers. Microsoft supports much of CSS1 in Internet Explorer 3.0 and will extend support in the upcoming 4.0 release. Netscape has announced support and the W3C expects other browsers to follow. Also, CSS1 was implemented in several non-commercial browsers, including Arena and Emacs-W3 in 1995.


Ideally, the creation of HTML+CSS is transparent for the designer. The W3C anticipates CSS1 will be supported by HTML editors and are actively working with several vendors to ensure interoperability. W3C's testbed editing environment, Amaya has an initial CSS1 implementation.


Just like word processors and DTP packages now can save documents as HTML today, the W3C expects wide support for HTML+CSS as an output format. CSS1 allows these applications to preserve more of the information in their documents. Already, Adobe's FrameMaker support this feature in HoTaMaLe.


The Web's main document format, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), was intentionally designed as a simple language that valued document structure over document presentation. In 1994 HTML has established itself as a universal document format, but it was clear that HTML -- even with extensions -- would not fulfill authors' demands for presentational capabilities.

Work on CSS was started in October 1994 by Håkon Lie, then at CERN, the birthplace of the Web. In July 1995, work on CSS continued at INRIA, the European host of W3C, and Bert Bos joined the project. A W3C workshop on Style Sheets later that year made it clear that W3C Members wanted to work towards a common style sheet specification. The forming consensus was announced in March 1996, and commercial products based on CSS1 were out in the summer of 1996. Since then, the specification has been further refined by W3C's HTML Editorial Review Board. Also, the HTML community has contributed to the development of CSS through public mailing lists.


CSS1 defines a common syntax that will be the basis for a family of forthcoming CSS specifications. The W3C is working with its Members on specifications in the areas of printing, extended layout capabilities, speech style sheets and Web fonts.

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