Google Easter egg leads to story behind 'blink' tag

‘There is a bit more to the story than is widely known’

A new Easter egg from the merry pranksters at Google performs an appropriate demonstration for anyone who searches on the word blink plus the acronym html.

The nugget was flagged by Search Engine Land, which also provided the animated gif.

In addition, I noticed that the actual search results generated by blink+html include a 2009 blog post by Lou Montulli that begins, "I am widely credited as the inventor of the <blink> tag."

But it turns out that such wide citation is only partially warranted. Here is the rest of Montulli's tale, trimmed a bit ... and, yes, it involves alcohol:

The <blink> tag is an HTML command that causes text to blink, and many, many people find its behavior to be extremely annoying. I won't deny the invention, but there is a bit more to the story than is widely known.


Back in 1994 I was a founding engineer at Netscape, prior to that I had written the Lynx browser, which predated all of the other popular browsers at that time. Lynx had been and still is a text-only browser and is commonly used in a console window on UNIX machines....

Sometime in late summer I took a break with some of the other engineers and went to a local bar on Castro Street in Mountain View.   ... At some point in the evening I mentioned that it was sad that Lynx was not going to be able to display many of the HTML extensions that we were proposing.  I also pointed out that the only text style that Lynx could exploit given its environment was blinking text. We had a pretty good laugh at the thought of blinking text, and talked about blinking this and that and how absurd the whole thing would be. ...

Saturday morning rolled around and I headed into the office only to find what else but, blinking text.  It was on the screen blinking in all its glory, and in the browser. It turns out that one of the engineers liked my idea so much that he left the bar sometime past midnight, returned to the office and implemented the blink tag overnight. ...

I remember thinking that this would be a pretty harmless Easter egg; that no one would really use it, but I was very wrong.  When we released Netscape Navigator 1.0 we did not document the blink functionality in any way, and for a while all was quiet.  Then somewhere, somehow the arcane knowledge of blinking leaked into the real world and suddenly everything was blinking.    "Look here," "buy this," "check this out," all blinking. It was a lot like Las Vegas, except it was on my screen, with no way of turning it off.

In the end, much was said, most of it in the form of flaming posts to various discussion boards, and the <blink> tag will probably be remembered as the most hated of all HTML tags.

Montulli declined to name the engineer who did the actual <blink> coding, at least in this post. Little wonder.  

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