When Zeldman wrote our bible, we were there, pounding the table in board rooms for using CSS instead of tables for layout, for image replacement techniques that retained the accessibility of the content, for semantic code, and all the rest.
We were there. Many of us even wrote our own books and spoke at conferences all over the world on the backs of the movement Zeldman and company started. It was an awesome time, and we all acomplished a lot for the greater good of the web. We were the “gurus” who taught the world how to do HTML and CSS the right way.
The reason the Web Standards Movement mattered was that the browsers sucked. The stated goal of the Movement was to get browser makers on board with web standards such that all of our jobs as developers would be easier.
What we may not have realized is that once the browsers don’t suck, being an HTML and CSS “guru” isn’t really a very marketable skillset. 80% of what made us useful was the way we knew all the quirks and intracries of the browsers. Guess what? Those are all gone. And if they’re not, they will be in the very near future. Then what?
A lot of folks who came up from that time and headspace have diversified their skillsets since. Many are now programmers, or project managers, or creative directors, or business owners. But a lot of others are still making a go of it as an HTML and CSS guru, often in a comfortable job they’ve had for years. What happens when that gig comes to an end?
I personally know several people who feel unequipped in today’s job market, because their skillset is a commodity now. Today, when you interview for a job titled “Front End Developer,” you’re going to be grilled on everything from Backbone to Angular to Node. Prefer “Product Designer?” That, too, requires a bunch of skills you didn’t learn on A List Apart. HTML and CSS gurumansship is no longer enough to get yourself a job — rather, it’s one of the quick yes/no questions you’re asked on the phone screen before you even get to talk to the hiring manager.
In some ways, the Web Standards Movement killed the Web Standards Guru. We all should have seen this coming. The goal of the Web Standards Movement was for it to not have to exist — for the browsers to be good enough that there wasn’t a need for such a movement.
Or rather, that there wasn’t a need for you. Diversify or die.
P.S.— I see a similar eventual outcome for all those who have made their names as a “social media guru.” Eventually, that’s just going to be a skillset that’s baked into all kinds of marketing positions — not something one can ride off into the sunset on the back of.