Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): Definition & History

Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

In this lesson, we will be discussing Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) basics. You will learn how to begin creating a Web page using HTML, what is meant by HTML code, how HTML elements or tags are formatted, and the HTML code elements required for each web page created.

What Is HTML?

Do you remember during school or studying using a colored highlighter to make specific words or sentences stand out from other text? Have you underlined an important passage in a book or magazine article? If you have, then you have used a markup language. As a type of coding system, a markup language is used to highlight a passage or underline significant words, display an image or layout text in a particular way on a web page. When we incorporate a hypertext capability we add the flexibility of electronically linking one web page to another, thus making HTML even more desirable.

With this additional flexibility, a hypertext markup language like HTML is used in association with a web browser to format and display the contents of a web page making its contents available to the viewer.

HTML sign

HTML depends on the use of a web browser application to interpret and display text, graphics and images. HTML markup is composed of code elements, or tags. These tags are frequently paired, meaning one tag is used to open a display or format action, and the other paired tag is used to close the action. All HTML tags are enclosed within greater than (>) and less than (<) signs and can be entered in either upper of lower case letters. Other names for the > and < signs include wickets or brackets.

Using HTML tags web page content is displayed using a web browser application. The application interprets and executes each HTML tag one at a time like: <img>, <title>, <p> and <body> and displays the results. Open tags are closed using the </ structure like: </img>, </title>, </p> and </body>. Note: As long as a tag is open, the browser will continue to apply the action. For example, if we were going to make a word bold, we would use the <b> tag, and end the action with the </b> tag. Without the closing tag (</b>) any remaining text after the period would be displayed in bold.

<b>This sentence is in bold text. </b>

A Glance Back

The ability to link documents between computers and across networks became a reality in 1991 when HTML 1.0 was released, introducing the <href> (hyper reference) tag. The year 1991 was also the year Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser application which demonstrated use of the <href> tag. A second version of HTML was not offered until 1994, when HTML 2.0 became the first required formatting standard, forcing web browser applications to support a single set of developmental guidelines. In 1997 HTML 3.2 was approved, followed by HTML 4.01 in 1998.

A decade later, members of the Web Hypertext Application Technology (WHAT) Work Group published the initial draft of HTML5, scheduled to become the standard in 2022. Several advanced browser applications such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome currently support several HTML5 tags.

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