A love story, in code

Did you know the browser you’re reading this on contains a profoundly moving story of love and loss within its code? No? Then read on.

If you’ve ever done any kind of HTML, you know that you can specify colors either by their red green blue (RGB) hex values (e.g., #FF0000) is red, or by using a predefined named color that the browser knows, e.g., “red”. So, if I said: color: red, the browser has a mapping between “red” and FF0000. There are over 100 other named colors, kind of like a box of crayons. And just like a box of crayons, you start running out of color names after using up the obvious ones like red, green, orange, and so on. I’ve always laughed at some of the more exotic names like “papaywhip” and “burlywood.” One day, a couple years ago when I was looking at the color list, a named color popped up that I had never seen before: “RebeccaPurple” in hex: #663399. I was familiar with “AliceBlue” which was a shade of blue named after Alice Roosevelt, but who was Rebecca?

Rebecca, as it turned out was the daughter of Eric S. Meyer. For those of you not familiar with Meyer, he has contributed a vast amount of time to CSS/HTML Standards. He’s one of the reasons why the web works the way it does today. On June 7, 2014, her 6th birthday, his daughter Rebecca passed away after a months long fight with a brain tumor.

Eric Meyer wrote on his blog for those attending her funeral: “[The family] further request that those who attend the services and are comfortable wearing purple do so in honor of Rebecca and her favorite color.”

Almost immediately, the tech community did what kind people always do: they asked what kind act they could perform that perhaps no one else could. The answer of course was to honor the 6 year old’s favorite color in a way that only they could: a new CSS/HTML named color in her honor.

Now, “standards” committees, especially in the tech community are notoriously slow to adopt ANY new changes. And yet, kindness perhaps is the ultimate standard. And that is why on June 21st, 2014, just two weeks after the death of Rebecca, RebeccaPurple #663399 officially became a named color. And that is why, the browser you’re reading this on right now contains the name of Rebecca in its code. It’s why hundreds of millions of devices around the world contain Rebecca’s name, along with her favorite color. That is why, whenever I see the name “RebeccaPurple” when coding, I think about Rebecca, say a prayer for her, Eric Meyer and his family, thank God for the health of my own children, and ask: “What is a kindness that perhaps only I can do with my vocation in life?”