Hacker News has resurfaced an email thread from 1993 where Marc Andreessen proposed the introduction of the “IMG” tag for HTML. Andreessen himself looks to have jumped into the post’s comments to provide some background on the dialogue.
I can’t say that I’m posting much of anything new here since this source material is almost 20 years old, but it’s definitely worth revisiting as an important piece of Internet history.
Andreessen at the time was working on the Mosaic Web browser. The rest is the stuff of legend, as he went on to establish Netscape and co-started notable Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.
On February 25, 1993, Andreessen wrote:
I’d like to propose a new, optional HTML tag:
Required argument is SRC=”url”.
The thread continued with a back-and-forth exchange that included several other proposals for HTML. Tim Berners Lee, also known as the founder of the freaking World Wide Web, chimed in with: “I don’t want to change HTML now if I can help it, until it has gone to RFC track.”
Andreessen argued that browsers would be implementing image tags anyway as “the logical next step”, so being consistent from the beginning would be preferable.
Mark Pilgrim does a better job at highlighting the significance of this conversation in his book Dive Into HTML5, and the chapter in question is available online, so check it out if you’re looking to go deeper.
It’s uncanny to think that so many of the flickering images you’ve seen on the Web were made possible by one innocuous suggestion over email.
Image credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images