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The Truth At Last!

I knew I shouldn’t have gone to work for a Netscape group that interfaces so directly with the Mozilla crew—those guys are sharp.  Sooner or later, they were bound to figure out my secret.  I suppose I may as well confess it all now.

A few years back, I realized that while I was making good progress toward total domination of the CSS space (thanks to some judicious “retirements” of my competitors), something more was required.  There needed to be a rallying personality for all standards, not just CSS, and unfortunately my name was already too well associated with CSS.  A whole new persona was required—a figurehead, if you will.

So I invented Jeffrey Zeldman, whom I’ve always thought of as the imaginary friend I never had.  Sure, zeldman.com says it’s been online since 1995, but how do you know that for sure?  You don’t.  A little Wayback hacking and is all it takes to create a false Web history, specifically from 1996 through 1998, when the site actually went live.

Eventually, though, both “Zeldman” and I were getting invited to the same events.  I was facing a very awkward situation, because obviously Clark Kent and Superman can’t both be in the room at the same time.  So whenever I need “Zeldman” to appear, I use a NYC-area stand-up comic and character actor whose real name is Moishe Applebaum.  He’s actually picked up a lot of this Web stuff in the course of playing the role, and makes a little extra money on the side doing sites for small non-profits.  His stand-up routine is really funny, too; catch it some time when you’re in the Village.  I think he still has a couple more dates this month.

Fun trivia facts:

  • I came up with the name “Zeldman” because I’d just finished reading The Prisoner of Zenda and The Invisible Man.  Somehow the two mutated into “Zeldman.”
  • The “Jeffrey” part is actually a riff on Jeff Veen‘s first name.  I thought at the time that it would be funny to have two experts with the same name.  Of course, when Eric Costello came along the joke was on me, but that’s okay.
  • The incredibly different color schemes historically used on meyerweb.com and zeldman.com was sort of an in-joke, in addition to being a simple way to make the two personas seem more distinct.
  • My wife Kat is in fact a real person, and so is Carrie.  She’s Moishe’s girlfriend, not mine, so get your minds out of the gutter.  You’re blocking my periscope.

The next time “Zeldman” and I are supposed to appear at the same time is an upcoming Web Design World this November.  I’ll probably keep the illusion going; I’d hate to call it off after all these years.  Still, you never know what could happen now that the word’s out…

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