Jan16

A Very Brief History of HTML

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

January is the month of trying out new things. So rather than scan my Facebook feeds, I made a resolution to learn something new: Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.

For the last two weeks I have been assigning myself a goal to accomplish as a way of thwarting my Facebook obsession. In my first week I read a technology related book that I would not normally read, and this week I committed to spending eight hours learning HTML.

A Brief History of HTML: (very brief…)

Hypertext Markup Language makes up the building blocks for the World Wide Web. Since first conceived in 1990, HTML has been a part of just about every website you view. Using what are called tags or enclosed text in brackets, for example: <html>, a web browser can read HTML files and interpret content to the viewer. Without this, our websites would look like a jumble of words and letters and would offer no organization or design.

HTML was created to as a simplified version of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), a complex specification describing markup languages for document exchange, management and publishing. HTML is not seen as a programming language, rather as a markup language because it is generally used solely for the purpose of creating the layout of a web document.

HTML gained popularity for the reason that it was easy to learn and apply across many applications. As the World Wide Web grew, so did HTML, until eventually the language merged with mainstream web design. Early web browsers added their own take on HTML as a way to up the ante for competitors. More bells and whistles were seen as a way of attracting more users. For example tags like <blink> and <frameset> were created to add variety to web browsers, and  behind the scenes some tags have really great stories. Read the true <blink> story here.

Competition between the browsers ensued, and with it came scrambled and widely varied versions of HTML leading to issues when viewing a webpage across different browsers. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) saw these developments as a problem and in 1995 created recommendations for the standardization of HTML. As of October of 2014 the final and complete revision was approved by the W3C, known as HTML5. Although, not all browsers have made the switch quite yet. Check your own HTML5 test here to see how HTML5 ready your browser is.

Through the years HTML has evolved to be the language used for our web activities. Images, text and other web content is viewable on our screens thanks to this language with the help of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS is used to enhance and alter basic HTML mostly for aesthetic reasons. Combined, HTML and CSS are a powerful duo that keep the web accessible to all.

In my undying quest for knowledge, I decided that I too should learn the ways of HTML. I vaguely remember broaching the topic in high school but could use a crash course to get up to speed. The internet encompasses all in the digital world and in order to compete I must be able to speak the language.

How to learn HTML:

HTML isn’t something that you might use every day, but I promise it will come in handy as you broaden your web presence and come to rely more and more on web based services. Plus, HTML is just a cool thing to know! Here are some easy ways to learn the HTML/CSS basics.

Take a class:

Very few learning methods compare with the one-on-one collaboration of a teacher and student. As a class, many can learn more in less time with fewer confusions. Also, when paying for a class you have a higher chance of accomplishing your goals.

Buy a book:

For those who learn best from written manuals this option will serve you best. If you like puzzles and have the patience, learning HTML from a book can teach you the complexities of HTML with more retention than a standard class or website. The downside is that you will have to make a plan and stick to it without any guidance. Be sure that you look for helpful videos on YouTube if you get stuck.

Websites: (my personal choice)

There are dozens of websites devoted to adding HTML to your list of practised skills. These sites will walk you through, step by step until you become an HTML and CSS master. Another added bonus is that most of the websites teach you for FREE! There is no excuse for not learning the HTML basics. The only downside I have seen is that the easy-to-use steps are easy to forget and less likely to be remembered in a year from now.

Some of my favorites include:

Code Academy

HTML Dog

W3Schools.com

I chose Code Academy and in less than a few hours I had learned the basics of tagging, paragraphs and headings. The site is easy to use and gradually adds more information without confusing or frustrating me. Be sure that you sign in so that you can save your progress and pick up where you left off. Happy tagging!

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