Invented in 1993, about 29 years ago, HTML has served as one of the standing and continuous languages through which web developers allow users of the internet to interact with websites in a structured manner. Without it, the web would not exist especially with its hyperlinking ability that may seem simple but is quite profound.
What is HTML
HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language which serves as the building block for the web and defines the structure and content of any webpage. With it, we can easily present, separate, and deliver content statically to users. With HTML, we have a standardized system for tagging text within files and creating hierarchal content to achieve font, color, graphic, and hyperlink effects on World Wide Web pages.
Who invented HTML?
Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML - the document formatting protocol through which much of the world wide web exists. As a physicist working at CERN, he developed the first version of HTML.
Wanting to solve information management systems, he work on developing a web-like system at CERN using previously developed technologies (TCP/IP, etc), and made use of a version of the then-current technology of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) to create HTML. Which provided the ability to link different documents and resources to one another in a unidirectional pattern, rather than a bidirectional one.
The HTML was developed as the render and document technology that would allow viewership of the hypertext documents via browsers. HTTP served as the delivery mechanism for HTML documents over the web and URL served as the medium through which one could access the HTML documents. In fact, HTML was used to create the first website.
From here on, HTML served as the de-facto markup language web browsers use to transcribe, translate and describe the text and other resources in static and, via extension, dynamic pages.
The purpose of HTML
The purpose of HTML is simple - describe and define semantically the structure of web pages and provide a means for linking resources. HTML as a language makes use of tags and elements to carry out the descriptive nature of its work and the linkage of resources such as documents or other pages to itself in a unidirectional manner.
Initially, it was more of a hypertext medium to access the early world wide web and much of the yet-to-be-connected internet, but through its iterations and versions, it has become a multimedia interface that supports more than just text. Tags such as <canvas> and <img> which support graphics and images respectively are evidence of this evolution.
In addition, hyperlinking is an important and crucial feature that HTML supported that allows people to easily navigate the complex world of the internet and provides the needed relationship between web resources that people found hard to find earlier. Additionally, its semantic feature provided more textual understanding of what each part of the HTML document is doing, therefore, improving search and accessibility.
The state of the internet pre-HTML
Much of the pre-Web internet was text-based and was accessible via dedicated ASCII-based programs and command line interfaces such as gopher and Archie that allow you to search through collections of documents.
In addition, most of it was largely unconnected. Everything (files, documents, etc.) was independent of each other, and therefore, it was fairly hard to find documents and understand the relationship between documents.
That’s what HTTP, URL, and HTML provided, the interconnectivity using HyperText which allows for linkage to other texts. HTML provided the means of document formatting to allow for the linkage of different texts, resources, and documents over HTTP via URLs bringing everything on the internet together - the World Wide Web.
HTML versioning through the years
There have been several different versions of HTML since its inception. Some of these versions are direct descendants of the first HTML version (HTML 1.0) and some are extended versions. There are five (5) main versions and one big extended version called XHTML.
The five main versions are HTML 1.0, HTML 2.0, HTML 3.3, HTML 4.0, and HTML 5.0. The first version of HTML - HTML 1.0 - that Tim Berners-Lee released in 1993 which was defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Much drafting and prototyping were done with this version but its draft expired after 6 months, much work was done by the HTML Working Group which was created by the IETF on HTML 2.0.
HTML 2.0 served as the basis upon which other versions will be developed and used some suggestions and designs from the initial HTML version. This version was released in 1995 and supported form-based file upload, tables, client-side image maps, and so on. From here on, the HTML language was maintained and managed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) led by Berners-Lee. W3C serves as the international standards organization for the World Wide Web.
HTML 3 - the first version from W3C - dropped a couple of features that it had inherited and later added markup for mathematical formulas. This version was released in 1997. In December 1997, HTML 4 was released and provided support for browser-specific element types and phased out Netscape’s visual markup features, and further sub-versions were released (4.01 and 4.01 Strict).
After many years, HTML 5 came to life in 2014 and introduced some multimedia and graphical content support and increased its semantic content support. Important to dynamic manipulation, DOM and APIs became a part of HTML5 specification. HTML 5.1 and 5.2 were released in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) was released as part of the XML markup language and was extended from HTML which maintained a restrictive ruleset, and its first version was released in January 2000. Other versions were released later.
Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML. He played a large role in creating the world wide web today, and most especially, the technologies that make all of it possible - URL, HTTP, and HTML. HTML as a document format and markup language has helped people create mediums for information exchange, resource linkage, and content delivery. Though HTML produces just the static structure and content of a webpage, it serves as the foundation upon which all of the dynamic content and services are built. As a markup language, its impact on the world is immersive and outstanding, and we have Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C to thank for all of it (from HTML 1.2 to HTML5)