Essay: History of HTML

history of html

Computer programming has indeed become a money-making industry. Understanding the history of HTML could put you well on your way to joining the masses of programmers out there today. Of course, there are other programming languages to learn as well, but HTML remains a significant basis for primary education.

Initially, HTML was a rather simple computer language that consisted of little number tags. It became a complex markup system that allows programmers, or authors, to create all kinds of animated and audio embedded web pages. The good thing about it at this stage is it is flexible. You can do just about anything you dream up with it.

history of html

But, since you are here to understand HTML’s history, it is time to learn more:

In the Beginning

The acronym HTML is familiar to just about anyone who uses a computer on a regular basis. However, there are very few “ordinary” people who can tell you what that acronym stands for it. HTML is the shortened way to say: Hyper Text Markup Language. Which, by the way, was the World Wide Web’s official language.

The concept of HTML came about in 1990. It was a year after the creative desires of a man working in the area of particle physics changed the world. His name is Tim Berners-Lee. Desiring to be able to share his papers and receive articles from other scientists, he created what we now call the World Wide Web as a network for electronic transfer.

HTML then was a product of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). It was a complex and technical specification that described markup languages. It was mainly tied to document management, exchange, and publishing via electronic methods. Hyper linking these processes is what led to HTML’s conception. It is also why HTML is rather necessary.

HTML Released

Though HTML existed in 1990, its first draft, HTML 1.0 was not released until 1992, and then finalized in 1993. As a beginning language, it was so simplistic everything one needed to know could be printed out on one side of a sheet of paper. Even in that simplicity existed the underlying idea that is now central to all the recent evolutions of HTML.

Essentially, HTML provided a separation between presentational elements and logical structures. And that is still the most important aspect to grasp when you endeavor to learn HTML.
By 1994, HTML had evolved and HTML 2.0 was developed. The group that worked on that development got disbanded as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) appeared to be a better HTML developing force. In fact, they are still developing programming language improvements today.

HTML and Browsers

A hyper linking system and language were great, but there needed to be a way to disseminate those documents and ideas to a broader scope. At that time, some browsers surfaced: Netscape, Mosaic, Lynx and several other companies jumped in the game.

Microsoft purchased one of these browser development companies, Spyglass. It became the basis for what most of us know to be Internet Explorer.

Browsers take HTML and turn it into something on your screen. They do this via their rendering engines which translate the code into the proper designs for your viewing. Wanting to provide users with brand specific experiences, Microsoft and Netscape developed their HTML extensions and for a while that created some interesting issues.

Battling the Issues

Due to these added extensions, there were certain browsers necessary for fully experiencing the intended HTML design of web pages. So, the W3C decided to create a standardized HTML version to inhibit the problems posed by extensions. Unfortunately, HTML 3.0 so hotly debated that it never got out of the draft format.

By 1996 the W3C and other interested parties came to a consensus and HTML 3.2 was released. This new version of HTML allowed for the addition of tables, and text flow around images. But, it maintained backward compatibility with HTML 2.0.

Other issues ensued as programmers and developers sought to diverge from Berners-Lee’s separation between presentational elements and logical structures. The more popular the Web became, the more grave and widespread the divergence became as well.

The biggest issue was the development of “shim” GIFs for the creation of page layouts. While the pages appear correct, the logical structure destroys, and often the pages were incompatible with text browsers. It led to further HTML revisions.

Everything Changes

Due to all the issues surrounding images and text based web pages, the W3C released HTML 4.0 in 1997, but that didn’t fix everything they were hoping for it. So, another version, HTML 4.01 came about in 1999.

Later, when Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) introduced, the W3C chose to abandon HTML. It is no longer the default standard. Rather they have returned to SGML, the root of its development, because it is a larger language with far more complexity.

The truth is, there will probably never be another updated version of HTML. HTML revision is history.


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