At the end of 1998, a while after the release of CSS 2, I took an action item in the CSS Working Group to become the author/editor of a new beast in our Group, a module... CSS 2 was already a big big change from CSS 1. And when I say 'big', it means the spec switched from the 15 printed pages of CSS 1 to the hundreds of CSS2. So we decided to 'modularize' CSS 3. Since I already worked a lot on Selectors and even implemented them before, this was a natural choice for me.

At the beginning of january 1999, my first draft was ready. It's unfortunately not public and the original document was lost when I left my employer a year later (Electricité de France, fwiw). The second draft though is still available, although in a web space restricted to CSS WG Members, sorry for that... The first public draft, dated 03-aug-1999 is available here. You can see that in that document, the :subject pseudo-class, corresponding to the $ descriptor present in the current Selectors 4 draft, was present... Alas, it was later removed because of browser vendors expressing implementation concerns. That pseudo, a top request from the Web Authors' community, originally came from something I specified and implemented myself in my transformation language based on the CSS syntax/grammar: STTS3.

Despite of what I could call a poor support from implementors at that time, I also decided to add major new stuff to Selectors:

  • the :nth-child() and friends pseudos, captured from an early draft of XSL/XPath I found impressive. I really wanted them to be able to style table rows, columns and cells. For the record, the an+b syntax of the argument was proposed by Tantek Çelik's father.
  • the :target pseudo, proposed by Håkon Lie. Håkon did not suspect the power of that pseudo at that time, until I found a super-interesting use case for that pseudo... See the demo (in a browser implementing :target, of course...).
  • the indirect adjacent combinator ~, that was really missing.

Then namespaces and the negation pseudo :not() arrived, and the spec changed only a little bit between 2000 and now, waiting for browser implementations, a completed Test Suite and interoperability.

Today, after more than 12 years, I am happy. Really happy and a bit proud too I must say. Older, but happy :-) My baby just became a W3C Recommendation, after the hard work of many people who caught the flag and became editors of the document and/or the Test Suite... Yay!

Similarly, the original CSS Namespaces proposal, authored by my co-chair Peter Linss during the Netscape era (gosh, time flies...) became a REC yesterday after too many years of wait. Yay again !

All in all, the CSS Working Group released 5 new W3C Recommendations between the beginning of june 2011 and now ! Wooohooo !

So where are we now? Selectors 4 start emerging, and I would like to issue here a clear and loud warning with my CSS WG Co-chair hat on: this is an early stage draft and the presence of a feature in that document does not imply IN ANY WAY that the final specification will contain it and that browser vendors will offer support for it. In particular, I already noticed the major response of the community to the presence of the subject selector and the matches-any functional pseudo-class. Guys, please cool down... These two features still represent a real implementation challenge for browsers and I just cannot tell if they will remain in the spec or disappear from it. Please note, this is not the first time - as I wrote above - such features are included into a Selectors draft... Been there, done that.

Don't misunderstand me ! I am not saying these features will never ever reach a browser near you ! I am only saying standardization is a complex process also based on implementability of the features we design AND browser vendors' strategies. Be optimistic, but also be realistic. Thanks.