Basic HTML
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What is HTML?

Actually, it's an acronym that stands for HyperText Markup Language. Right...that doesn't help you that much, does it. Actually, HTML is a language that is derived from SGML which stands for Standard Generalized Markup Language. SGML, like its sibling HTML, was originally developed to help scientists communicate with each other in a standardized format. They were initially interested in marking up, or describing, text. Why, you ask? Well, texts vary widely, and without face-to-face communication, one has to be able to describe the thing (or text) he/she is talking about.

HTML is the language of the World Wide Web today. Tim Berners-Lee of CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) is credited with creating HTML (or rather, deriving it from SGML). He first proposed the new mark-up language at the CERN conference in 1989 to use as a knowledge management tool for physicists. It wasn't until the arrival of the world's first graphical web browser, NCSA Mosaic, that HTML really became something that everyday people would want to use. Quickly thereafter, everyday people began to find different uses for HTML, mainly, for graphical and textual web page design. Like many standards, HTML has gone through numerous iterations. Currently the W3C recommends HTML version 4.01 (released in December of 1999).

So...enough of the history lesson. How does it work? HTML uses tags to tell a web browser how to display text and graphics on a web page. The HTML code is invisible to the user for the most part. You can look at the code of most web pages with your browser by viewing the source code. To view the source code of this web page, go to your browser's menu, select "View" and tab down to " Source" or "Page Source." In some browsers, this may not be located in the same menu; you might have to play with it a little to find it. The code that you see is the HTML code that tells your web browser how to display this page. At this point, it looks almost cryptic, and well, it should. Next we'll show you how to begin writing your own HTML code.

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© 2004 Chad Hutchens & Libby Peterek | iSchool | UT Austin | webmaster