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WORLD OF WYSIWYG

History of WYSIWYG and CMS: a timeline

Published July 4th, 2022

As storytellers, sharers and creators, humans have always sought to express themselves and leave a legacy, in graphical (pictorial) and text-based ways. The world wide web emboldened that practice.

Di Mace

Communications Specialist at Tiny


Our mechanization of expression began with the typewriter, followed by computers and word processors. Then we saw the history of WYSIWYG editors begin a new era, where words and pictures were combined into a single interface (UI). But once the history of CMS (particularly open source CMSs) and web-based WYSIWYG editors began, the democratization of content creation was complete — with people expressing themselves and publishing their work across the world.

To this day, both the history of WYSIWYG innovations and the story of CMSs continue to fuel each other’s growth.

The naming and exact start/end of each Web Era (1.0, 2.0, 3.0) is hotly debated, and much has been written about Web 4.0 having already started, with the deepening of mobile usage, AI and IoT growth.

The beginning of WYSIWYG editors

1960 /

1990

In the pre world wide web era of the 60s and 70s, documentation was a disaster. Authors, content creators and the ‘typists’ of the day had little control over how their documents were formatted before the invention of word processors and the adoption of WYSIWYG text editors. In the late 60s, everything changed.

In 1968, Douglas Engelbert’s pivotal talk the ‘Mother of all Demos’ inspired much of the future work at Xerox PARC that sparked the development of WYSIWYG editors and user interfaces (UI). Bravo — the first WYSIWYG editor — was born in 1974, but was unfortunately never publicly marketed so the WYSIWYG editor remained hidden.

1960s


Patents for mouse and UI

By the 1960s, after much experimentation and design, Douglas Engelbert submitted patents for two new inventions: an early device that would eventually become a computer mouse, and screens that improved interaction with computers.

1968


Douglas Engelbert’s 'The Mother of all Demos' live demo presentation

Douglas Engelbert’s pivotal talk, the ‘Mother of all Demos’ inspired much of the future work at Xerox PARC on WYSIWYG editors and interfaces.

1969


The catchphrase 'What you see is what you get' (WYSIWYG) was popularized by Flip Wilson’s drag persona Geraldine

Regularly used in the early 1970s on 'The Flip Wilson Show', the catchphrase was a statement demanding acceptance of Geraldine’s personality and appearance.

1972


First WYSIWYG editor

Xerox PARC recruited Butler Lampson and Charles Simonyi, who drew on Engelbert’s ideas and began developing the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor.

1974


Bravo, the world’s first WYSIWYG document preparation program, became operational

Bravo was enabled by the first fully networked personal computer, the Xerox Alto, but was unfortunately never publicly marketed so the WYSIWYG editor remained hidden.

1974


First reported use of WYSIWYG phrase in computing

Karen Thacker, the technophobe wife of Xerox hardware designer Charles 'Chuck' Thacker, was introduced to the Xerox Alto running Bravo, and commented, “You mean, what I see is what I get?”

1975


Engineers at Xerox/PARC appropriate Flip Wilson’s popular WYSIWYG phrase

Charles Simonyi and the other engineers appropriated Flip Wilson’s popular phrase.

1978


WYSIWYG term used/coined at committee meeting

Barbara Beeton reports that the term was coined by Bill Tunnicliffe, in a presentation at a 1978 committee meeting involving the Graphic Communications Association (GCA), the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and the Printing Industries of America (PIA).

1979


First WYSIWYG UI, on Bravo, introduces 'piece tables' data structure

While at Xerox PARC, Butler Lampson and Charles Simonyl introduced 'piece tables', which enabled the introduction of delete, undo, and redo abilities, and was a fundamental data structure needed to develop a working WYSIWYG.

According to SimpleThread, “The first browser-based WYSIWYG editors became possible because Internet Explorer decided to implement designMode and contentEditable, which gave users a way to edit rich text in the browser. This original implementation of designMode and contentEditable ended up being reverse engineered by developers at Mozilla.”

1979

/ 1982


WordStar software

Although very rudimentary compared to today’s editors, WordStar software and its competitor, WordPerfect, were arguably the first mature WYSIWYG editors widely available.

1983


Microsoft Word launched

After Charles Simonyi (now ex-Xerox) joined Microsoft in 1981, Microsoft Word hit the market in 1983 and writing, printing, and publishing skyrocketed.

1984


Apple releases the Apple II with mouse hardware

Douglas Engelbert's mouse device design was later licensed to Apple computers, who in 1984, released the Apple II with mouse hardware. This crafting and sharing of designs directly led to the mouse hardware we use today.

1984


Apple releases MacWrite, a WYSIWYG word processor application

Improved technology allowed the previously cost prohibitive WYSIWYG software (for the general public) to start appearing in more popular computers. The MacWrite WYSIWYG word processor application (along with MacPaint), was one of the two original 'killer applications' launched with the first Apple Macintosh (1984) that propelled the popularity of the GUI, and Mac in particular.

1985


Open source community begins

In early 1985, the Free Software Foundation launched.

The simple static read-only web era

(known to some as Web 1.0)

1990 /

1999

Once the first website went live in 1991, the heyday of rich text editor innovation began. The first websites were simple HTML text files and you used an FTP program to copy the files to a directory under a running web server. In 1993 Mosaic browsers began supporting the use of images (along with text), and static brochure-like sites began sharing company and product information.

From the beginnings of the web, Tim Berners-Lee said the separation of the document structure from the document’s layout had been a goal of HTML. It took until 1995, when the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established, when Hakon Wium Lie and Bert Bos worked together on the first style sheet (CSS) recommendations and WebMagic, the first WYSIWYG HTML editor, was launched.

The history of CMS opens a new era

In an era when most software was written by agencies rather than specialist software companies, one of the earliest CMS applications was released in 1994 by Swedish developers, Roxen Internet Software. Tags and templates were required for development, because WYSIWYG text editing was not yet widely available beyond enterprise proprietary software.

In August 1996, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 3 was the first commercial browser to support CSS, followed by Netscape 4.0 — thus sparking the battle between the two companies to control standards, which became known as ‘The Browser Wars’. Then in 1997 Microsoft introduced FrontPage — the first WYSIWYG HTML editor — and iframes, which allowed users to split HTML browser windows into segments that could show a different document or content (from different sources and sites).

1990


Tim Berners-Lee writes first browser and server software

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee proposed an internet-based hypertext system, HTML, and in late 1990 wrote the browser and server software that became the basis for the World Wide Web.

1991


First static website goes live

When the first website went live in 1991, the heyday of rich text editor innovation began.

1991


First version of the open Linux Operating System launched

In 1991, the first version of the open Linux Operating System launched as a small number of files written in C language. It launched to the world with a license prohibiting any kind of commercial sale of the source code.

1992


Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) launched

In 1992, the 386BSD — that’s Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) — launched. The project no longer continues today, but several other open source projects grew from it — like FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD to name a few.

1993


Mosaic browsers began supporting images, along with text


1994


‘Roxen’ was one of the first CMS applications

Early CMS applications were written by web design agencies rather than software companies — an example was 'Roxen' released in 1994 by Swedish developers, Roxen Internet Software. Tags and templates were required for development, as WYSIWYG text editing was yet to be widely available beyond enterprise proprietary software. The learning curve was steep and if you didn’t know HTML, you’d be unable to edit your site.

1994


First blog launched by Links.net

Swathmore College student, Justin Hall, launches the first blog as a place to publish his writing. With the term 'blog' not yet invented, these sites were referred to as 'online diaries' or 'personal pages'.

1995


FileNet introduced a complete document management system

FileNet introduced a complete integrated document management suite of programs with document imaging, document management and workflow.

1995


WebMagic, the first WYSIWYG HTML editor launched

1995

/ 1997


Introduction of enterprise CMSs

Enterprise proprietary CMSs launched: Interwoven (1995), Documentum (1996), FatWire (1996), FutureTense (1996), Inso (1996) and EPiServer (1997).

1995

/ 2001


The 'First Browser War', during the late 1990s, pitted Microsoft’s Internet Explorer against Netscape’s Navigator.

1996


First commercial browser launched to support CSS

In August 1996, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 3 was the first commercial browser to support cascading style sheets (CSS). The next browser to support CSS was Netscape Communicator, version 4.0.

1996


Possible origin of the term 'content management system'

Vignette launched in late 1995 and is commonly credited with originating the term 'content management system'. Their goal was to make web publishing more accessible and more personalized. Vignette Corporation offered a suite of content management, web portal, collaboration, document management, and records management software.

1997


Microsoft FrontPage launched

Microsoft FrontPage was a WYSIWYG HTML editor and website administration tool from Microsoft for the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems. It was discontinued in 2003.

1996


Vignette launches StoryBuilder

In 1996, Vignette developed StoryBuilder, its first product, which handled large-scale content management workflow.

1997


Vignette launches StoryServer

In January 1997, Vingette Corporation released StoryServer — allowing non-technical users to create, edit and track content through workflows and publish it on the web. StoryServer was used on many large websites including those of CNET, UnitedHealth Group, The Walt Disney Company, Wachovia, Martha Stewart, Fox News, National Geographic Channel, Pharmacia & Upjohn, MetLife, BSkyB, the 2004 Summer Olympics, and NASA.

1997


Dreamweaver launched

Dreamweaver launched.

1997


iframes introduced

In 1997, Microsoft introduced iframes that let you split the HTML browser windows into segments, with each frame showing a different document that could be used to display content from other sites and was popular for presenting ads and banners.

1997


Document Object Model (DOM) introduced

Dynamic content came into its own with the introduction of the Document Object Model (DOM), by defining the logical structure of documents and programmatically control parts of the document. For example, the DOM lets you access and manipulate the styles of HTML elements like the entire body (body) or a division (div) on a page.

1997


The term 'weblog' coined by Jorn Barger of the influential 'Robot Wisdom' blog

The term was later shortened to 'blog'. Many of the early blogs were created by programmers and focused on highly technical subjects.

1998


Google Inc. was officially launched by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to market Google Search, which has become the most used web-based search engine.

1998


First known instance of a blog on a traditional news site

Jonathan Dube became the first journalist to blog an event — chronicling Hurricane Bonnie for 'The Charlotte Observer'.

1998


Creation of Open Diary

Open Diary was a blogging platform that allowed community members to comment on each other’s writing. It was the first of many tools that made blogging accessible to regular people, regardless of their programming experience.

1999


‘Weblog' term simplified to 'blog' by Peter Merholz

Launch of three new blogging platforms: Xanga, LiveJournal and Blogger.

The social read-write web era

(known to some as Web 2.0)

2000 /

2007

The Web 2.0 period refers to the period when user-generated content surged and ease of use tools emerged — allowing users to interact and easily present information and content on the web. During this period the need to manage content became increasingly important, as did the desire for collaboration. Content was updated daily and widely shared throughout the newly born social networks.

Websites now needed daily updates, with different departments (and people) needing to access, add and edit content. Content management systems played a crucial role in enabling this content explosion, as did continual improvements in rich text editing with ensuing productivity and workflow improvements.

In the early 2000s, open source CMS alternatives began emerging, including Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla. TinyMCE (open source) became the core editor in the Wordpress CMS that went on to gain 40+% market share of the websites worldwide. Being open source, Wordpress quickly gained traction and brought digital content creation to the wider population. Content had most definitely been democratized.

2000


dot.com crash

Most marketing agencies refocused away from the coding development of CMSs, and returned back to design.

2000


First vlog (video blog) created by Adam Kontras

Early

2000s


Web APIs, XML and JSon appear

RedDot, DotNetNuke CMS platforms developed by specialist software platforms

2001


Movable Type blogging platform launched

2002


Technorati, first-ever blog search engine, launches


2003

onwards


Open source CMSs and frameworks began to appear

High cost of early wave CMSs (often costing thousands of dollars in fees to use) caused an open source movement to be established, characterized by both paid and free application development.

WordPress (2003), Drupal (2000) and Mambo/Joomla (2005) launch

High cost of early wave CMSs (often costing thousands of dollars in fees to use) caused an open source movement to be established, characterized by both paid and free application development.

OpenCMS, PHP-Nuke, WordPress (2003), Drupal (2000), Plone and Mambo/Joomla (2005) offer free alternatives for content management and inspire the mainstream adoption (democratization) of CMS. Built-in WYSIWYG text editing, SEO, improved HTML and graphical UI with minimal coding required and content (image, file, page, database and text) management.

2003


MySpace launches

2003


Google launches AdSense advertising platform

AdSense made it possible for bloggers without huge platforms to start making money from their blogging.

2003


Typepad launches

Typepad (based on Movable Type) launches as a commercial blogging platform that hosts blogs for major multimedia companies like the BBC.

2003


Google purchases Blogger and pushes blogging into the mainstream

Purchase of Blogger (created by Pyra Labs), by Google (2003) and made freely available to the world. The move pushed Blogger, and the entire concept of blogging into the mainstream.

2003

onwards


Website-building platforms emerge

Easy to use website-building CMSs offered no-code premade templates, such as WordPress (2003), SquareSpace (2003), followed later by Weebly (2006) and Wix (2006). While not pure CMSs, they opened the market to build small, low-costs websites with no knowledge of HTML, CSS or coding

2004

-

2017


Browser wars continued with the decline of Internet Explorer’s market share and the popularity of other browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome (and other Chromium-based browsers), Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera.

2004


Facebook launches

2004


TinyMCE 1.0 Rich Text Editor (RTE) open source released

2004


TinyMCE RTE adopted by Joomla/Mambo open source project

2005


TinyMCE editor incorporated in WordPress 2.0

2005


YouTube launches

YouTube was bought by Google in 2006.

2005


Huffington Post media site launches

2006


Alfresco CMS available

In 2006, Alfresco offered an open source alternative to enterprise content management.

2006


Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere report states there’s 50 million blogs worldwide

2006


Google Docs initial release

Google Docs and the other apps in the Google Drive suite serve as a collaborative tool for cooperative editing of documents in real-time.

2007

-

2008


Introduction of Apple iPhone and

iPhone (2007) and Android (2008) smartphone introductions begin to impact the delivery of web content.

2007


First microblogging site, Tumblr launches

The semantic read-write-execute web era

(known to some as Web 3.0)

2010 /

2020

The mid 2000s and 2010s years delivered the cloud-native Google Docs software — where previously unimagined collaborative opportunities were added to online rich text editors, as well as cross-browser compatibility. It’s thanks to the groundwork laid by those early rich text editor pioneers, that HTML editors are now seamlessly integrated into (and supporting) a myriad of software projects and web applications.

With the emergence of the mobile phone (Nokia, Blackberry, Palm) in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it gave users on-the-go access to the web. But their impact wasn’t fully felt until the arrival of the iPhone (2007) and Android (2008) mobiles. Their widespread popularity forced all web applications to handle the shift in delivery (and appearance and screen size) from desktop and laptops, to mobile devices, as well as REST APIs and JSON data formats.

Then, around 2010 the ‘responsive design’ trend forced the transformation of what were previously ‘fixed’ web design layouts (for desktop websites) into more fluid, adaptable layouts. By the beginning of 2014, mobile internet use exceeded desktop in the USA.

Driven by this increase in mobile content consumption, from 2010 onwards the more traditional web-based CMSs were heavily challenged by no-code website builders (Squarespace, Webflow and Bubble) and pure headless CMS (Contentful and Strapi).

2010


Smart tablets introduced

REST APIs and JSON data format vital to delivering content to smart phones, and the shift from desktops and laptops to mobile devices.

2010


Ethan Marcotte introduces the term 'responsive design'

The introduction of the term 'responsive design' in 2007, by Ethan Marcotte, shifts fixed design for desktop websites to responsive fluid, adaptable layouts.

2010


Shift to omnichannel content delivery

Emergence of web-ready devices, like smartphones, gaming consoles, voice assistants push web content to omnichannel content delivery methods and platforms.

2010


Decoupled and Headless API-first CMS introduced

Proliferation of devices and modern Javascript frameworks prompt the popularization of Headless CMSs and JAMstack architecture

2010


More than 152 million blogs active, worldwide


2013


Contentful Headless CMS launched

2014


CMS industry splits into enterprise document management (EDMS) and web content management (WCMS), which is further divided into free, open source and paid-for solutions

2015


Rise of SaaS model in CMS

2015


Google announces that non-responsive design sites will be penalized if they weren’t mobile-friendly

2016


Strapi CMS launches

Strapi is a self-hosted open source CMS available as an alternative to headless API-first and proprietary CMS.

2016


Web access from mobile devices and tablets exceeds desktops worldwide

2016


e-Commerce Layer and Saleor (Open source) available

Headless CMS also disrupted the e-commerce industry, with new software editors offering solutions to manage multiple SKUs, prices and inventory data in a true omnichannel way.

2019


First rich text editor native mobile experience launched (TinyMCE)

2020


API economy + microservices technology enables low code/no code innovation in CMS

Popular questions

1960–1990 the beginning
of WYSIWYG editors

What is WYSIWYG?

WYSIWYG is pronounced “wiz-ee-wig” and stands for What You See Is What You Get. WYSIWYG editing occurs where the text you are writing/editing exactly matches how the final product looks. Read more about What is WYSIWYG?

When was the term ‘What you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) first used?

The catchphrase 'What you see is what you get' (WYSIWYG) was popularized around 1969 by comedian, Flip Wilson’s, drag persona Geraldine.

Who invented the first WYSIWYG editor?

In 1972 Xerox PARC recruited Butler Lampson and Charles Simonyi, who drew on Douglas Engelbert’s ideas in his 1968 talk ‘The Mother of all Demos, and began developing the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. By 1974 the first fully networked personal computer, the Xerox Alto, was running Bravo but was unfortunately never publicly marketed so the WYSIWYG editor remained hidden.

In what year were the first WYSIWYG editors widely available?

Although very rudimentary compared to today’s editors, WordStar software (1979) and its competitor, WordPerfect (1982), were arguably the first mature WYSIWYG editors widely available.

When was the first reported use in computing of the term ‘What you see is what you get’?

The first reported use of WYSIWYG phrase in computing occurred in 1974, when Karen Thacker, the technophobe wife of Xerox hardware designer Charles 'Chuck' Thacker, was introduced to the Xerox Alto running Bravo, and commented, “You mean, what I see is what I get?”.

When was the first WYSIWYG word processor launched?

After Charles Simonyi (now ex-Xerox) joined Microsoft in 1981, Microsoft Word hit the market in 1983 and writing, printing, and publishing skyrocketed.

When was the first Mac-based WYSIWYG editor launched?

In 1984, Apple released the MacWrite WYSIWYG word processor application (along with MacPaint). It was one of the two original 'killer applications' launched with the first Apple Macintosh (1984) that propelled the popularity of the GUI and Mac in particular.

Popular questions

1990–1999 the simple static
read-only web era

What is Web 1.0?

Web 1.0 is the earliest version of the Internet (also known as the World Wide Web) evolution. According to its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, it is the “read-only web.” In other words, the early web allowed people to search for information and read it, but there was very little in the way of user interaction or content generation.

What was the main feature of Web 1.0?

In Web 1.0 people used it solely for communication (email or instant messaging), and web pages were mainly static online brochures for businesses, with very little content being generated by users through blogs and forums.

When did the first website go live?

In 1991 the first static website went live and web-based rich text editing began its greatest growth period.

When was the first CMS invented?

Early CMS applications were written by web design agencies rather than software companies — an early example was 'Roxen' released in 1994 by Swedish developers, Roxen Internet Software.

Who launched the first blog?

In 1994, Swathmore College student, Justin Hall, launched the first blog (Links.net) as a place to publish his writing. With the term 'blog' not yet invented, these sites were referred to as 'online diaries' or 'personal pages'.

When was the first HTML WYSIWYG editor invented?

In 1995, WebMagic, the first WYSIWYG HTML editor launched.

Popular questions

2000–2007 the social
read-write web era

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0, or the “read-write” web as Berners-Lee described it, gives users the ability to contribute user-generated content and interact with others. It is also called the participative social web.

Why is Web 2.0 important in the history of CMS?

Web 2.0 applications tended to interact much more with the end user, and creators needed to automate and better manage their files, graphics and text based content. Users could interact (comment on blogs) and collaborate (contributing user-generated content) with each other — encouraging the development of virtual communities.

What’s the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is an enhanced version of Web 1.0.

When did open source CMS and frameworks begin to appear?

From 2003 onwards, the previously high cost of early wave CMSs (often costing thousands of dollars in fees to use) caused an open source movement to be established, characterized by both paid and free application development.

When was TinyMCE editor first launched?

In 2004, the TinyMCE 1.0 Rich Text Editor (RTE) open source version was released.

When was TinyMCE open source incorporated in WordPress CMS?

In 2005 the TinyMCE editor was incorporated in Wordpress 2.0 and continues to be utilized in the WordPress Classic editor.

Popular questions

2010–2020 the semantic read-write-execute web era

What is Web 3.0?

By extrapolating Tim Berners-Lee’s explanations, Web 3.0 is “read-write-execute.” While it is still evolving, this era combines semantic markup and web services to produce a web 3.0 experience — applications that can speak to each other directly and interpret information for humans. It’s a new age of technology where artificial intelligence (AI) plays a major role.

What is the difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?

As the monikers (coined by Berners-Lee) imply, Web 2.0 is the ‘writeable’ phase of the web, where readers can interact and contribute user-generated content, while Web 3.0 is the ‘executable’ phase, where apps speak to each and then both interpret and write information on behalf of humans.

What’s a no-code website builder?

No-code tools provide templates and/or building blocks that users can drag-and-drop to build their website or apps.

What’s a headless CMS?

Headless CMS consist of a database and content system, delivered via an API. They completely separate the frontend (design and employment) from the backend (content creation and storage) and are generally used to build omnichannel digital experiences. Developers generally consider headless CMS as a low-code solution.

Reference sources:

author

Di Mace

Marketing Communications Manager

Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.

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