The “Hidden” Purple Memorial in Your Web Browser

#663399 // “rebeccapurple”

I recently encountered a visual bug where the style I was attempting to apply to an SVG element just wasn’t working. My first instinct when debugging a tricky styling issue is to fire up Chrome Dev Tools and attempt a sanity-test. I usually start by setting the misbehaving element to a noisy and ugly CSS color value like ‘blue’ or ‘red’ and examine any clues.

To my surprise, when I typed the first two letters of “red” — just “re” — the element was filled with purple. Was “re” some type of new color shorthand?

It turns out that Chrome Dev Tools was autcompleting “re” to a named CSS color I had never encountered before. The color was named “rebeccapurple

“re” is purple??

What’s rebeccapurple?

That autocomplete behavior led to me to learn about a tiny gesture of kindness/remembrance that is baked in to every major web browser and has been part of the official CSS standard since 2014.

Purple was the favorite color of Rebecca Alison Meyer who passed away twelve hours into her sixth birthday from brain cancer. Rebecca was the daughter of prolific CSS standards pioneer Eric Meyer. Eric kept his online colleagues informed of the battle his daughter and family were waging through blog posts and brief updates on Twitter.

After hearing the awful news, designer/author Jeffrey Zeldman decided to do something and started a Twitter hashtag campaign in her memory:

It’s so easy to do, there’s no reason not to. Go to Twitter on 12 June and post the hashtag #663399Becca along with any additional words or pictures you feel moved to share. Or just share the hashtag. It will not be enough. Nothing will ever be enough. But it will be something.

What started as a hashtag charity campaign evidently transformed into a much larger project. Given Eric’s prolific work on CSS, it was proposed that the hex-value #663399, a shade of purple, be aliased to “beccapurple.”

When informed of the initiative, Eric had one request if the standards body were to adopt the proposal: call it “rebeccapurple” instead. Eric writes thatRebecca informed us that she was about to be a big girl of six years old, and Becca was a baby name. Once she turned six, she wanted everyone (not just me) to call her Rebecca, not Becca.”

In late June 2014 the proposal was finalized and “rebeccapurple” was now officially the color purple with a hex value of #663399.

See 6:30
“The ability just to connect to each other and help each other — that feature, that fundamental aspect of the web helped me survive the last couple of years. And I don’t know where I’d be without the ability to share what I was experiencing and just in blogging about stuff and sharing things and having people say ‘Man, we hear you. And we’re here.’ Really helped me in profound ways, ways I don’t think I could ever express and that most of those people will never know. The web made all that possible. And I love that that capability is there.” — Eric Mayer

I sure didn’t expect a silly CSS problem to reveal so much kindness.

If nothing else, the next time you find yourself trying to pick a color or debug a fussy element, how about “rebeccapurple”?

Further Reading: