HTML: The origin and evolution as a major markup language
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard markup language for displaying documents in a web browser. It describes the basic structure of every web page or application. This article follows its evolution all the way to HTML 5, as we know it today.
From a usual website to a complex web application, the role of HTML is imperative. We can define it as a simple computer language that allows a client application (browsers) to visualise data from a set of tags and hypertexts. In 1990, when it was first devised, it was for sharing data among scientists. But today its acceptance and practice expanded to a much broader level. You can find applications of HTML everywhere, from the search results page of Google to a usual e-commerce website you visit to buy movie tickets.
HTML was born out of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). It provides a set of rules for tagging elements in a document and defining markup languages such as HTML. SGML is not a markup language rather it acts as a language to create markup languages. Another markup language which is born out of SGML is XML.
HTML describes the basic structure of every web page or application. It contains a series of elements which tells the browser how to display the data on the screen. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard markup language for displaying documents in a web browser.
It describes the basic structure of every web page or application. It contains a series of elements which tells the browser how to display the data on the screen. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard markup language for displaying documents in a web browser.
- Hypertext – Hyperlinks are links which lead to a new page, it can be a word, phrase or a graphical image which lands the user to a separate page when they click on it. The term “Hypertext” was coined by Ted Nelson, an American pioneer of information technology. It is one of the important concepts which gave us the power to share and connect through the internet. Without hyperlinks, navigating from page to page which we call ‘browsing’ has not been possible.
- Markup Language – A markup language is a combination of symbols and words used to define or highlight contents or data, thus enabling a browser to identify the accurate information to be displayed on the screen. Term markup got its name from the old practice of editors which is to mark up the manuscript for highlighting certain fields.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. The main idea behind the invention was to automate information sharing among universities and scientist communities. It was unknown at that point that the application will grow into one of the most vital tools people use to share information. Today, it has evolved to become the essential structure of everything from a basic information retrieval website to a complex web application.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee graduated from Oxford University and became a software engineer at CERN, one of the established particle physics laboratories in Geneva, Switzerland. The facility was used by many scientists from all over the world. Working at CERN, Tim noticed the difficulty in sharing information.
“Well, I found it frustrating that in those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. So finding out how things worked was really difficult. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee.” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee
This frustration of Tim leads to the invention of HTML through which today the whole world accesses information.
Versions of HTML
The introduction of HTML 1.0 was with an objective to share data and information which can be accessed through web browsers. Version 1.0 was not that popular. The reason was the insufficiency in developers who are involved in creating websites at that time. Due to this, the growth of the language then was very disappointing.
After HTML 1.0, HTML 2.0 was launched in 1995. All the features of HTML 1.0 were included in this succeeding version. This version remained as the standard for developing websites until 1997.
On January 14, 1997, HTML 3.2 was published as a W3C Recommendation.
It was exclusively developed and standardized by W3C as IETF ended its support over HTML on September 12, 1996. When compared with 2.0, 3.2 provides features such as tables, applets, text flow around images, superscripts and subscripts. (Reference: www.w3.org)
This version provides many extensions when compared to the previous version. Tools like style sheets, scripting, frames, embedding objects, improved support for the right to left and mixed direction text, richer tables, and enhancements to forms, offering improved accessibility for people with disabilities. (Reference: www.w3.org)
HTML 5 – The current version
HTML 5 is known as the HTML Living Standard and is maintained by the members of Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) which include vendors like Apple, Google, Mozilla, Microsoft etc. The official release of HTML 5 was on 22 January 2008. The update brought many updates and features like application programming interfaces (APIs) which enabled developers to build complex web applications using HTML.
After the launch of HTML 5.0, in October 2015, version 5.1 was launched by resolving some unfixed issues in the prior HTML 5 version. After that, on December 14, 2017, 5.2 was released as a W3C Recommendation which is the current and latest version used by the people today.