What is HTML or Hypertext Markup Language ?

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Hypertext Markup Language or HTML is the basic computer language of the web. It is usually delivered over the Internet through either the HTTP protocol or e-mail. “Hypertext” usually refers to text displayed in a browser or e-mail program that will lead the user to other, related information as desired. Hypertext facilitates the dynamic organization of information through links and connections (called hyperlinks).

HTML was developed in the early 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee who was an independent contractor at CERN. The original intent of HTML was to provide a means whereby scientific information could be shared among various researchers.

Berners-Lee’s proposal for HTML included 22 elements – 13 of which still exist in the current implementation. At the time he considered HTML to be an application of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) developed by IMB in the 1960s.

The initial drafts of HTML expired in 1994 following which an HTML Working Group was formed. In 1995, the HTML Working Group completed “HTML 2.0” that was the first HTML specification intended to be treated as a standard against which future implementations would be based. There was in reality no “HTML 1.0;” the 2.0 designation was made to distinguish it from previous versions. Since 1996 HTML specifications have been maintained with input from commercial software companies and W3C.

Basic HTML is a static markup language meaning that the content of pages created with it is static or not changing. Dynamic HTML is a collection of technologies used together to create interactive and animated web sites. These dynamic sites utilize a combination of static HTML, a client-side scripting language like JavaScript, a presentation definition language like CSS and the Document Object Model. In this book we will learn some basic HTML, XHTML and CSS as applied in various ways.

The commands and codes that make up HTML may be written in a text editing program such as Microsoft’s Notepad. However it is more common today to utilize graphic layout software such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver in which the design of the web page is laid out visually by the designer while the program writes the actual code that makes up HTML behind the scenes.

HTML was initially envisioned as a means for sharing of scientific data so the original versions did not allow for any degree of sophistication as far as formatting text or graphics. Over time some graphic and limited text formatting capabilities have been added but to ensure that everyone continues to have access to web content, new versions of HTML and browser software need to be at least partially backwardly compatible. Therefore many of the original limitations of HTML remain and the web designer must be aware of and work with these limitations.

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