The CSS3 Basic UI module defines
pointer-eventsproperty allows authors to control whether or when an element may be the target of user pointing device (pointer, e.g. mouse) events. This property is used to specify under which circumstance (if any) a pointer event should go “through” an element and target whatever is “underneath” that element instead. This also applies to other “hit testing” behaviors such as dynamic pseudo-classes (:hover, :active, :focus), hyperlinks, and Document.elementFromPoint().
The property was originally SVG-only, but eventually browsers and the W3C adopted a more limited version for HTML elements too.
It can be used in many use cases that weren’t possible before (or the solution was overly complicated), one of them being to create custom-looking <select> drop downs, by overlaying an element over the native drop down arrow (to create the custom one) and disallowing pointer events on it. Here’s a quick example:
-webkit-appearance: none was needed in Webkit to turn off the native OSX appearance (in OSX and maybe Safari on Windows, I didn’t test that). However, since that also removes the native drop down arrow, our custom arrow now obscures part of the text, so we had to add a 30px padding-right to the select element, only in Webkit.