In 2002, Onward! was created as a special track within OOPSLA to be a venue for bigger ideas than normally are accepted by mainstream computer science conferences, but within the scope of OOPSLA’s focus. "Bigger ideas" included new approaches to programming, software, and software development; new paradigms; and even new ways to present ideas.
Beginning in 2003, Onward! papers were included in the OOPSLA proceedings, and in 2005, Essays and films were added to Onward!. As the track grew, it became clear that there was a need for Onward! in a larger context than object-oriented programming, and in 2009, Onward! spun off from OOPSLA to become a stand-alone conference focusing more broadly on software and programming in all their manifestations, and including not just the pure technology but also processes, methods, and philosophy.
Since 2010, Onward! is co-located with SPLASH (the evolution of OOPSLA), but in the future, the sky’s the limit.