Håkon Wium Lie

With my good friend John Perry Barlow
book cover

I'm Norwegian. In my native country, my name is quite normal and I even have a famous namesake. In English, my first name is unpronounceable, my middle name is shortened to a single letter, and my last name does not build confidence. I therefore go by the name howcome which, although grammatically dubious, is the closest pronounceable approximation.

In 1994, I created a small language called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS describes how web pages are presented — on screens, in print, or read out loud. You can read about it in a book I co-authored with my co-inventor Bert Bos. The book written in HTML and CSS, and converted to PDF by Prince. I'm the chairmain of the board of the company behind Prince. Our goal is to convert the book-publishing industry to use HTML and CSS.

Some texts are actually worth printing, binding, reading

In November 2015, the KonTiki2 Expedition sailed from Peru and we reached Easter Island on day 43. Inspired by Thor Heyerdahls journey, we showed that balsawood rafts can be sailed, and not just drift in the ocean. A slow-moving raft is a perfect platform for scientific research, and we brought with us many scientific instruments. My role on board was technical; I made sure we had enough electric power to run all the instruments, including satellite communications equipment. You can read my story.

From 1999 until 2016 I was the CTO of Opera Software, until the browser was sold to a Chinese consortium. Among the great things Opera did was ensure standards support in browsers, and making Opera Mini which gives people web access from places where no other browser can go. There is still much work to be done in improving the browser experience; the last project I worked on at Opera was the Opera neon concept browser.

Opera also means multimedia; music, song and some strange plots. Some of us like both kinds of Opera. The selected few even like Wagner!

I'm a graduate of the MIT Media Lab where I was part of Walter Bender's Electronic Publishing Group. The Media Lab did not invent the Web. The Media Lab did, however, pioneer many of the applications that later have been built on the web, and the concept of Cascading in CSS is inspired by Media Lab principles of adapting technology to the user.

The web was invented at CERN. I heard the big bang and came running to the World Wide Web project where I worked with Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau. In 2001 I started writing up my PhD thesis with help and inspiration from Ole Hanseth and Gisle Hannemyr.

Our proudly painted banner from a demonstration against globalization and neoliberalism in Oslo in 2002

I constantly prioritize my frustrations, and sometimes find battles worth taking on. In the neighborhood, I fight senseless grafitti, tasteless advertising, and motorways on the beach. On the city level (Oslo), I fight high-rise buildings in favor of classical elegance. On a European level, I fight against software patents, and for traditional buildings. On a global level, I fight for open web standards.

My political manifesto can be summed up as: Global information, local production! That is, one should freely exchange bits of information at a global level, but atoms (including food, furniture, and people) are much harder to transport and there are natural restrictions. Rather than packaging and transporting stuff, spare parts can be printed locally and fish should be programmed to swim to their destination. You should know the name of the person who made your shoes.

I'm a founding member of the Norwegian Pirate Party. I support CAPSoff. I oppose daylight saving time.

I like to design and make stuff from wood. I've made a sled, a dining room table, a common table, hymn-book-shelf on wheels, a shelf, and a leaky bathtub. I'm part owner of a woodworking studio in Oslo. I grow organic apples on a small farm, on 59° north. The apple juice we press is really good and won the first prize in the prestigious Norwegian apple juice competition.

I observe two seasonal rituals to overcome fear: in the summer I jump into water from 10 meters, and in the winter I race down mountains on a snowboard. I brag about my personal speed record on snowboard: 94km/h. I sail in the summer and have participated in exactly one regatta. I have sailed on two of Norway's tall ships: Christian Radich and Sørlandet.

I listen to classical music and like to go to houses built for music. I like to go to church, especially where choirs sing and organs rejoice. I travel wide and far to see Wagner's Ring: New York, Bayreuth, Seattle, Berlin, London, New York, Copenhagen. I drive an electric car.

My long term project is to build a pipe organ.

In the past, my homepage ended with the sentence above. I have to add one more paragraph. Someone read my homepage and sent me a message: «Are you serious about building a pipe organ? One of Norway's organ workshops needs a new owner». I became that new owner and these days I spend much of my time at Ryde & Berg in Fredrikstad.