Thanks for writing this.
Stefan Magdalinski

I did go back and look at a lot of sites for this article over time:

If we look at a mainstream site like the NY Times, in 1996 the front page was a gif image and from 1998–2005 black on white text. In 2006 it greyed to #333 and made the type smaller too, and it has stuck with this since. Similarly, the Guardian switched to #333 in 2007, and went to #767676 for subheads (a 4.5 contrast ratio)from 2015.

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