CSS Regions backstories

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(to be continued)

In 2011, CSS Regions emerged in a proposal written by W3C member Adobe “to support sophisticated, magazine-style, layouts using CSS”, which has been translated into a CSS Regions Module Level 1 working draft. At the same time, also Apple worked on similar ideas, which they called slots, but these were never further implemented into a CSS standard.

Ten years have passed since the CSS Regions started to disappear from Chromium. Ten years might not sound like a long time, but it is when you think about the speed in which web technologies change and the short period of time in which this CSS standard was implemented by (some) browsers. Chrome and Chromium for example, only partially supported CSS Regions in their releases in 2011 and 2012, with an extension to 2014 if you enabled the Webkit Experimental Features. Ever since CSS Regions have been absent in the bigger so-called modern or updated browsers that run on Linux operation systems.

In 2013, OSP started to use the CSS Regions to flow text on a page. CSS Regions are basically a tool to fragment text into pages, columns or other boxes. It creates the possibility to render a HTML document into pages, but it also adds an increasing amount of flexibility to layout making, allowing text and images to be placed in more complex ways on a page and in parallel of each other.

OSP has been working with this never officially supported CSS standard ever since. The CSS Regions are part of a larger toolset to produce printed matter using the web, which includes the yearly programme booklets for the Balsamine theater between 2011 and 2021, and the quarterly investigative journalism magazine Médor since 2015 until today, amongst a whole range of other projects.

The choice to stay firm and to not let go of the CSS Regions, forced OSP to look for workarounds. Working around the changes that were made to CSS standards in general and to browsers in particular. They found a way to configure and run a very minimal browser that runs on a browser engine that still supports CSS Regions: OSPKit.

OSPKit runs on a specific version of WebKit released in 2016, Qt-WebKit 5.212, which has two big concequences. First, all HTML, CSS and Javascript versions that are used in OSPKit are so-called “outdated” and stuck in the year 2016. And second, WebKit also dropped support for CSS Regions since version 5.6 [TBC!], which means that once Qt-WebKit will be further developed and not available anymore in OS package managers, that it will be increasingly difficult to install OSPKit on so-called modern and updated operating systems.