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What is HTML?

What is HTML? It is hypertext markup language. Read about HTML in the article below where hyptertext markup language is explained and described; a descriptive definition of HTML.

 
Preface. The Internet is a global collection of networks which links together educational institutions, research facilities, businesses and corporations, telephone lines, individuals, communication devices and other resources. No one owns the Internet. The Internet is comprised of several components including e-mail, gopher, telnet, newsgroups and the World Wide Web, also called the Web or WWW. The Web is only one part of the Internet and the Internet existed before the World Wide Web was invented.

Introduction. Before delving into what HTML is, please review History of the Web Beginning at CERN to see how Tim Berners-Lee developed and utilized HTML with the client software at CERN to enable information sharing on a multi-platform network. HTML was specifically developed to use along with the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to encode documents for display on the World Wide Web.

HTML is a markup language that was developed from a more complex markup language, a protocol known as SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). Visualize, if you will, HTML as a subset of SGML. SGML was developed to standardize the coding of computer documents for the Internet. It is used to describe, define and to explain other languages. As a tool, SGML standarizes the display of components within a document constructed with SGML protocols. SGML is more complex than HTML. A special type of browser (client program) is needed to view SGML documents.

HTML is defined in the HTML Standard, currently Version 4.0x. HTML standards are recommended by  the World Wide Web Consortium,   W3C.  W3C also oversees the standardization of technologies related to the World Wide Web and publishes the HTTP (Hypertext Tranfer Protocol) standards. (See the W3C Recommendation for HTML 4.01)

About HTML. HTML are initials for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is pronounced one letter at a time as if you are spelling the word HTML. It is not pronounced as "hitmill" and it is NOT a programming language. HTML cannot be used to write programs and it cannot control the precise layout of a web page.

Web browsers are used to view HTML documents. Two popular Web browsers are Firefox and the Microsoft Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is currently in the version 7 Beta 2 Preview, available for free download from Microsoft.com. Read the Release Notes before installation.

You will learn that your Web pages will appear differently when viewed using different browsers. Firefox, for instance, is not always displaying table bordercolor or horizontal line color correctly. My Beta 2 Preview of Internet Explorer 7 crashes when I open Google and perform a search. This might not be the case on someone else's computer... Microsoft is working on known problems and that is why it is called a BETA Preview.

Browsers control the layout of a Web page. Other factors such as the difference in screen resolution between various monitors (video display terminals) will also change how a page will appear. End-users can change several preference settings of their own individual browser and users may even turn off the images on a Web page and view only the text protions if they so wish. The user may change the fonts or even change the colors of the underlined text links. Some browsers such as the DOS Lynx browser are text-only browsers.

A "link" in your document is a place you have coded in order to place an "object" on the page to make something happen when it is activated by the end-user. You will learn about the various types of links as you learn about HTML elements.  A "document" refers to the actual HTML coding. A "page" refers to what the browser displays on the monitor screen. Try not to use the terms (document, page) interchangeably since they do not refer to the same thing.

A Markup Language. The term "markup language" is a term that orginated in the publishing industry. When an editor uses a blue pencil and makes a paragraph mark the editor is using another form of a markup language. The symbol <P> is an example of the HTML "tag" used to begin a paragraph. </P> is the "tag" used to end a paragraph. Notice the forward slash mark before the P in the ending "tag". All ending tags in HTML have a forward slash preceding the letter.

The small marks before and after the P are called the left angle bracket and the right angle bracket. (All HTML "tags" have angle brackets.) Later on you will learn more about coding HTML.  The "tags", such as <P> and </P> do not appear on the completed web page but only the content of the paragraph appears on the completed page. The term paragraph element refers to both of the paragraph "tags" and the actual paragraph contained between the "tags". The H1 element would be the opening and closing H1 "tags" and the content of the title (content between the opening and closing "tags"). <H1>Big Title</H1>

Hypertext. Ted Nelson "coined" the term "hypertext" in 1965 to characterize text which is not sequentially constrained. When you read a novel page-by-page the text is constrained in a sequential fashion.  With hypertext (using a link) you could jump ahead and return back again. This was a concept of linking information in a non-hierarchical format.
     The concept of hypertext was again proposed by Ted Nelson in his 1974 book,  Computer Lib/Dream Machines.

Hyper Documents and Hyperlinks. Web pages should be hyper documents. A hyper-document contains links to other objects and locations either within the document itself or to other documents located elsewhere on the Internet (Gopher, FTP, Newsgroups, Telnet, the World Wide Web). Hyperlinks created a level of interactivity with the end-user who activates the links. A document without links is static and the end-user is not able to interact with a static page. The purpose of the links is to allow the user to refer to related topics to gain more information and to visualize the interrelatedness of the parts to the whole. The user should be able to select which links to "visit" and to jump from page to page as he or she desires.

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Updated 26 January 2009
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