History of HTML
HTML is an ever changing language. With every new version, the standards revolving around it are constantly changing to allow for stricter, but cleaner and more efficient code that contains more features than before. HTML has gone through several changes since its inception.
This tutorial focuses on:
- HTML Beginnings
- HTML 2.0
- HTML 3.0
- HTML 3.2
- HTML 4.0
- HTML 4.01
- HTML progression
- Future of HTML
HTML was originally developed by a man named Tim Berners-Lee while at CERN. While working at CERN, he became frustrated at having to log on to different computers to find different information and thought that there must be a better way. He figured that there must be a way to hop from one set of information to another thats on different computers. This concept of a hyper-text system (connected with the networking technology and protocols needed to pass information between computers) would go on to form the basis for the fundamental language of the world wide web -- HTML.
The first ever version of HTML was HTML 1.0. This original HTML was alot different than the HTML used today, it was far more limiting. The internet was not yet popularized, and few people were involved in web development. But for those that were involved in web development, they could not do much with HTML except get some simple text up on the web (the original HTML consisted of only 22 tags). This was only the beginning....
The web started to gain some popularity, and in 1995 HTML 2.0 was released. HTML 2.0 was not much different from HTML 1.0 except for a few new features.
At this point in time with the web getting more and more popular, more and more people were starting to learn HTML. These people wanted more -- they wanted more abilities, more tags, and more enhancement of their websites.
In parallel at this time, Netscape was the leader in the browser market with its Netscape Navigator browser and to appease the people who wanted more and more, they created a set of proprietary tags (called Netscape extension tags) that would work only in Netscape Navigator.
Other browsers tried to emulate Netscape's actions as to continue to compete in the browser market, but were not able to get their browsers to display things as they intended. This resulted in a lack of 'browser consensus', where a webpage looked good in one browser, but bad in another browser. Webpage developers were upset and a new more advanced version of HTML was needed.
For this reason, the HTML 3.0 draft was introduced. This draft included several new abilities and more powerful opportunities for webpage developers to create their webpages. But surprisingly, the web browsers were slow in implementing these new abilities and opportunities. They only added a few, and left out the rest. For this reason, the HTML 3.0 draft was abandoned.
Web browsers would haved probably performed faster implementations of new abilities if not for the large size of the overhaul. The people in charge understood this, and future changes to HTML were designed to be added in stages as opposed to in one large chunk. This way it would be easier for web browsers to adapt to the new changes.
The HTML 3.0 draft was abandoned, and the proprietary tags kept coming. A standard for HTML was needed, and this became obvious because of these actions. In 1994, an organization called the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) was formed to standardize HTML. They got to work and created HTML 3.2 -- the next step in the evolution of HTML. Many of the proprietary tags created by Netscape for their Netscape Navigator browser as well as Microsoft for their Internet Explorer browser did not make it into HTML 3.2.
In January 1997, HTML 3.2 became the official standard.
Big changes came with HTML 4.0. It was a huge step in the evolution of HTML.
In December of 1997, HTML 4.0 was published as a recommendation by the W3C. This version of HTML was different than HTML 3.2 in a big way. HTML 3.2 contained several tags and attributes for styling things like text and links. While seemingly a good idea, it turned out to be very different. Webpage developers had to spend so much time manually coding font and color information on many different pages because of these styling tags and attributes. Besides, this is not what HTML was designed for. HTML was designed to specify the logical organization of a document.
With HTML 4.0 this concept became actualized, as styling tags and attributes were deprecated. Styling pages is actually not part of HTML (at least not in the modern usage of HTML), but is actually a language all its own.
As styling became separated from HTML, it became much easier to work with. No longer was it required for webpage developers to scour all those pages to manually change styles. They were now able to do so on one stylesheet (using a separate language called CSS).
HTML 4.0 provided new tags for stylesheets, scripts, frames, embedded objects, more complex tables, more complex forms, and improved accessibility features for people with disabilities.
HTML 4.0 became the official standard in April of 1998.
HTML 4.01 is a revised version of HTML 4.0 that includes several changes to the HTML specification. Changes in the revision include the addition of certain attributes such as the name attribute for the <form> tag, usability functionality such as the ability to include text within the <noframes> tag for browsers that do not have frames enabled or do not support frames, and a new document type definition called 'Strict' which allows no usage of deprecated tags and attributes.
Also included within the HTML 4.01 specification are some corrections to previous errors in the HTML 4.0 specification such as the <frame> tag containing the target attribute, and the <input> tag in forms having the selected attribute (when it contains a checkbox).
The W3C contains a long list of all the changes between HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0, as well as all the changes between HTML 4.0 and HTML 4.01 that you can read about in their HTML list of changes page.
XHTML is the next phase in the evolution of HTML. The last version of HTML before XHTML was HTML 4.01. The first version of XHTML was XHTML 1.0, and the current version of XHTML is XHTML 1.1.
XHTML stands for eXtensible Hyper Text Markup Language. XHTML is the next phase in the evolution of HTML. HTML 4.01 is the final version of HTML, which will eventually be replaced by XHTML. Not a completetly different language from HTML, XHTML is merely an advancement of it. With a bigger focus on adherence to standards and semantic code, XHTML is a stricter, but cleaner, and more efficient version of HTML.
XHTML contains rules for semantic code that must be followed including tags in XHTML must be properly nested, tags in XHTML must be closed, and tags in XHTML must be lowercase.
In January of 2000, XHTML became a standard together with HTML 4.01.
Read more about the differences between HTML and XHTML in our differences between HTML and XHTML tutorial.
HTML has made considerable progress over time. Thanks to the people at the W3C, its progress will continue in the future.
Benefits of HTML changing over time
There are several benefits to HTML changing over time.
Over time new features such as frames, support for stylesheets, scripts, and embedded objects have been added that have provided for more functionality on wepages providing more flexibility for the web developer and resulting in a better experience for the user.
HTML focused on its true purpose
As presentational attributes became deprecated, HTML became more practical in the sense that it allowed developers to use HTML for its true purpose and that is to specify the logical organization of a webpage.
With the internationalization of HTML, character sets for several different languages can be used to attract a more global audience.
Future of HTML
HTML has come a long way. From its early beginnings at CERN to its immense popularity on the world wide web. As HTML changes, so does the world around it. When HTML first came on the scene, there were alot less people on the internet, much simpler less functional webpages, and alot less browsers on the market.
As technologies become more complex and demand increases for internet access in a non-traditional computer setting such as a cellphone, webpage developers will have to make sure their pages look right not only on desktops and laptops but on mobile devices and other technological devices as well. The future of HTML is about interoperability, strong adherence to standards, and new features (as consumer and developer demand grows).