Development of HTML Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Hypertext markup language, or HTML, consists of a set of instructions for the creation of display pages on browsers, which made the World Wide Web possible. By the mid-1990’s, HTML embedded codes that defined fonts, layouts, graphics, and hypertext links provided a standard protocol that allowed Web page designers to distribute content to any computer.

Summary of Event

Tim Berners-Lee, while working as a software engineering consultant at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN; later known as the Organisation Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, was attempting to organize laboratory research documents and statistics from incompatible computer systems submitted by physicists from around the world. In order to pool all of these files for sharing information, Berners-Lee developed a set of formatting codes to work with hypertext protocol by linking text within the files. Hypertext enables the computer user to cross-reference information and link formats together through multiple gateways on the World Wide Web. Each page is provided with a unique location address known as a universal document locator (URL). Robert Cailliau, who worked in the Office Computing Systems, Data Handling Division, at CERN, collaborated with Berners-Lee to get the Web under way. Cailliau’s contributions were essential to the development of the Web. He rewrote the original proposal, lobbied administrators for funding, presented papers at conferences, and got programmers to work on the project. Computers;HTML Computing, applied;HTML HTML World Wide Web;HTML Internet;HTML [kw]Development of HTML (1991-1993) [kw]HTML, Development of (1991-1993) Computers;HTML Computing, applied;HTML HTML World Wide Web;HTML Internet;HTML [g]Europe;1991-1993: Development of HTML[07970] [g]Switzerland;1991-1993: Development of HTML[07970] [c]Computers and computer science;1991-1993: Development of HTML[07970] [c]Inventions;1991-1993: Development of HTML[07970] [c]Science and technology;1991-1993: Development of HTML[07970] Berners-Lee, Tim Andreessen, Marc Cailliau, Robert

Berners-Lee derived hypertext markup language (HTML) from standard generalized markup languageStandard generalized markup language (SGML), SGML an international standard that emphasizes document structure and textual relationships. However, SGML proved too complex for the average Web page creator, so HTML was developed as a nonproprietary format in order to embed code for text, images, and other files to make them easily accessible through the Web. Berners-Lee’s prototype for hypertext was the NeXT computer station, but he encouraged others to program, design, and improve software for displaying HTML documents. In 1993, Marc Andreessen, an undergraduate student at the National Center of Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, designed a Web browser to display HTML documents, called Mosaic, that was widely adopted and accelerated Internet traffic over the following three years.

There are three types of markup language. The first type is procedural, or specific, markup, which provides visual clues for text formatting and indicates printing instructions to the processing system. The second type is descriptive, or generalized, markup, which informs the system of document components and layout, such as headings or paragraph designations. The final type of markup language, content, identifies various portions of the document that specify the speaker or types of speech. Markup codes are not visible when the document is displayed on the browser. HTML unifies elements and attributes using various tags and symbols.

The basic HTML markup statements are tags delimited by pairs of angle brackets. HTML tags contain elements that tell the browser a tag is starting or ending. The head tags indicate to the browser how to display elements of a document, such as font size, color, and title. The body will denote where paragraphs begin or end. The slash mark indicates the end of a section or page. HTML also applies attributes, such as “href,” that note a hypertext reference, allowing users to click a link that takes them to another Web site or page. Markup creation had been a tedious process that was prone to human error, but with the advent of HTML editor programs, the insertion of elements, tags, and attributes was made faster and easier. An example of a basic document done in HTML is as follows:

<html> <head> <title>Hello World!</title> </head> <body> <p>Greetings to everyone viewing this page</p> </body> </html>


The World Wide Web became a global, economic, and social phenomenon by the end of the 1990’s. However, American businesses shied away from the Internet in the early part of the decade, believing that it would be used only for research in the academic environment. In 1994, Berners-Lee, who was now working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to promote guidelines regarding the growth of network infrastructure and strict language syntax with HTML, especially with the emerging browser battles between Netscape and Microsoft Explorer.

HTML promoted interoperability, causing Internet traffic to explode. Search engines had difficulty trying to track all of the pages found on the Web. Companies soon embraced the World Wide Web for commercial ventures, and in response, HTML continued to improve support. Browsers adopted cascading style sheets to improve document appearance. Dynamic HTML added capabilities to respond interactively with JavaScript. Extensible markup language (XML), a relative of HTML, created additional tags to identify structures and relationships within a document. XML had two important features. First, Web page creators had more flexibility to create their own tags. Second, XML separated content from formatting through the use of sophisticated style sheets, ensuring that all data structures and relationships were identified within the XML tags in which they were enclosed. XML made search engines more powerful for cataloging contents, enabling computers to become even more interactive and responsive to user actions. Computers;HTML Computing, applied;HTML HTML World Wide Web;HTML Internet;HTML

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bell, Mary Ann, Mary Ann Berry, and James L. Van Roekel. Internet and Personal Computing Fads. New York: Haworth Press, 2004. A handbook that defines computer and Internet jargon for a general audience. Lists three to five sources after each term.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berners-Lee, Tim. Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. San Francisco: Harper, 1999. A memoir in which the inventor of the World Wide Web explains the philosophy behind, and the development and adoption of, the World Wide Web. Also discusses trends in Internet usage, especially the rise of e-commerce, and predicts the future for this technological revolution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cailliau, Robert, and Helen Ashman. “Hypertext in the Web: A History.”ACM Computing Surveys 31 (December, 1999): 1-6. Provides a historical overview of hypertext and the development of the World Wide Web. The authors also explain the potential of XML in future applications on the Web.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Henderson, Harry. Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology. New York: Facts On File, 2003. Guide to computer science intended for a general audience. Topics covered include the development of computers, computer architecture, operating systems, programming, and innovations in hardware and software.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Morris, Mary. HTML for Fun and Profit. Mountain View, Calif.: SunSoft Press, 1995. Provides a step-by-step tutorial for developing HTML pages for the World Wide Web. Geared toward UNIX, but also addresses PC and Macintosh platforms.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mowery, David C., and Timothy Simcoe. “Is the Internet a U.S. Invention? An Economic and Technological History of Computer Networking.” Research Policy 31 (December, 2002): 1369-1387. Traces the history of the Internet and explains why the United States became the source of innovations and development and an adopter of new applications. Key topics addressed include American business organizations, global trade markets, administrative policy, and academic research.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Musciano, Chuck, and Bill Kennedy. HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide. 4th ed. Sebastopol, Calif.: O’Reilly, 2000. Reference guide intended to help individuals learn HTML 4.0 and XHTML 1.0 for mounting pages on the Web. Examples show how to use style sheets, frames, interactive forms, image and audio files, and JavaScript programs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nielsen, Jakob. Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond. Mountain View, Calif.: SunSoft, 1995. Explores new applications in HTML, multimedia, and hypertext with Mosaic and Netscape interfaces. Also addresses copyright issues for users and developers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ralston, Anthony, Edwin D. Reilly, and David Hemmendinger, eds. Encyclopedia of Computer Science. 4th ed. London: Nature Publishing Group, 2000. Comprehensive A-Z reference guide that contains computer science terms about the history of computers, programming languages, and operating systems.

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Categories: History