Any Web page that you might visit using a Web browser is almost always just a code document, written using a language called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), with very few exceptions.
Whether you use powerful template features in a program like Adobe Dreamweaver, or automatic Web site building solutions like Wordpress or Weebly, what you create boils down to HTML documents. As such, all of these tools that make creating Web pages easier depend on the standards and limitations of HTML.
Therefore, no matter what level of Web development you intend to pursue, learning HTML is essential in order to effectively get the job done.
Web browsers are able to read HTML documents because of a practice called markup. Markup is a simply a way to make a text document readable and understandable to a computer. Markup standards exist across different applications and platforms. Usually the end-user does not see markup because it is being hidden by the application.
HTML is the ubiquitous markup language that is used in order to create Web pages, and we will be learning how to write it manually. HTML allows us to define the meaning and structure of the otherwise arbitrary blocks of text in a document.
HTML and CSS: A Brief History
Today, we will be learning two different languages: HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Nearly every Web page commonly viewed on the internet today implements both of these languages.
The World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) is the organization that directs the development of official recommendations for language standards such as HTML and CSS.
The brief timeline below illustrates how these languages developed from their inception to their current status:
- HTTP/HTML developed and implemented – 1989/1990
- Mosaic Web Browser released – 1993
- HTML 2.0 – 1995
- CSS 1 – 1996
- HTML 3.2 – 1997
- CSS 2 – 1997
- HTML 4.0 – 1997
- HTML 4.01 – 1999
- XHTML 1.0 – 2000
- XHTML 1.1 – 2001
- HTML5 – 2014
As can be seen from this timeline, both went through several revisions. With each new version, features were added to the languages. Most of these additions were proposed by individuals who wanted additional options for creating a more advanced visual display for Web pages.
However, HTML was never meant to create advanced layout and presentation. It was originally developed to logically structure a document and provide linking capabilities between documents. Eventually, it was decided that many of the presentation features in the language were really detrimental to the primary purpose of structuring a document. Thus, these presentation features that had been gradually introduced into earlier versions of HTML were removed. A new presentation language, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was developed to work in conjunction with XHTML/HTML to provide richer style options.
Separating Style From Structure
In principle, HTML was designed to handle creating the content (text and images), and the structure (paragraphs, headings, and tables), for a Web page. CSS, on the other hand, was designed to handle the style for a Web page (fonts, colors, and layout).
With the separation of style (CSS) from structure (HTML), many benefits have accrued, including:
- reduces production and maintenance time.
- improves accessibility options for individuals with disabilities and for multiple hardware platforms.
- provides better coding stability across multiple browsers, past and future.
HTML5 is the New W3C Recommendation
XHTML was the prior official recommendation by the W3C, but the needs of the Web have evolved quite a bit since the turn of the century. The successor for XHTML emerged over a decade later and is called HTML5. HTML5 brings new capabilities, including:
- easier inclusion of audio and video, without requiring plugins
- new elements for page structure, dynamic pages and Web forms