Håkon Wium Lie Norwegian

Håkon Wium LieHåkon Wium Lie
Håkon Wium Lie

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. It also makes for great email addresses, e.g., howcome@@@wiumlie.@no, which happens to be the one I use.

At sea

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.


In 1994 I invented 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 in YesLogic, which makes Prince. Being on the board is a good way have your favorite bugs fixed.


book cover

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. 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.


picture of banner with 'Global information - local production'

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 national level (Norway) I fight for the right to read digital information and against the destruction of charm. On a European level, I fight against software patents, and for traditional building. On a global level, I fight for open standards and against Microsoft's pollution of the web. My political manifesto can be summed up in Global information, local production! That is: one should freely exchange digital information at a global level, but stuff (including clothes, food, and furniture) should not be transported far and you should know the names of the people who make them for you. Spare parts should be printed locally, and fish should be programmed to swim to their destination. I'm a founding member of the Norwegian Pirate Party. I support CAPSoff. I oppose daylight saving time. After visiting Easter Island, I support OPT.


I like to design and make stuff from wood, especially from ash. 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 like farms, especially apple farms. I own a small one in the making. I like to paint. 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. In November 2015, I will sail from Peru to Easter Island on the Kon-Tiki2 expedition. I listen to classical music and like to go to houses built for music, especially those with a grand chandelier. 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.


I often find that my affections are paired with corresponding aversions. Here are some of the more articulated combinations:

classical music jazz
typography typography in public spaces
soaring kites high-rise buildings
LEGO bricks LEGO architecture
large pieces of wood industrial logging
large canvases billboards
glowing screens illuminated billboards
robots mass production
email email attachments
internet contemporary culture
machine-readable information barcodes
The dislikes are on the right.



Printing XML with CSS

For a list of publications in English, see a separate list, along with a partial list of newspaper articles on matters I care about. A partial list of writings in Norwegian are also available.

Places & times

Memberships, roles and Honors


E-mail is my main form of communication and the best way to reach me is to email howcome@@@opera.@com. I have used email since 1985 and, unlike Donald Knuth, I plan to continue using it in the future. I recommend these rules for writing electronic mail:

  1. Write e-mail messages in plain text; HTML has other uses.
  2. When quoting other messages, insert your own text underneath the quoted text so that the logical order of the text is preserved
  3. Avoid e-mail attachments: send URLs pointing to your attachments instead.
  4. In particular, never send documents in proprietary formats as e-mail attachments. PDF is acceptable if the formatting is essential to understanding the document.


Made with CSS

The easiest way to contact me is by sending email to howcome@@@opera.@com. If you need an urgent response, you can try my mobile phone (+47 90192217). Personal paper mail can be sent to:

Håkon Wium Lie
Boks 465 Skøyen
0212 Oslo