What is HTML?
The explosive growth of the World Wide Web is relatively unprecedented, although it resembles the desktop publishing revolution of the early and mid-1980s. As personal computers became more common in homes and offices, people began to learn to use them for document creation and page layout. Although early word processing programs were not terribly intuitive and often required memorizing bizarre codes, people still picked them up fairly easily and managed to create their own in-house publications. Suddenly, the same kind of growth is being seen as folks rush to create and publish pages of a different sort. To do this, they need to learn to use something called the Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML). HTML at a Crossroads
HTML and the World Wide Web in general are currently in a stage of development similar to that of the desktop publishing revolution. Still working to reach maturity as a standard, HTML is feeling the same growing pains that early word processing programs did-as more users flock to HTML, there is a growing need to standardize it and make it less complex to implement. These days, word processors are much more intuitive than they were 15 years ago. There are fewer codes and special keystrokes required to get something done. The applications have matured to the point where most of the low-level formatting is kept hidden from the user of the application. At the same time, the printed page is now more completely mirrored on the computer screen, with accurately represented fonts, emphasis, line breaks, margins, and paragraph breaks. Although programs are quickly being developed to offer similar features for HTML development, these tend to be less than ideal solutions. Currently then, anyone who decides to learn HTML is going to have to know some codes, memorize some syntax, and develop pages for the World Wide Web without the benefit of seeing all the fonts, emphasis, and paragraph breaks beforehand. But anyone who has had any success with word processing programs of ten or 15 years ago (or desktop publishing programs as recently as five years ago) will have little or no trouble learning HTML. Ultimately, you'll see that HTML's basic structure makes a lot of sense for this emerging medium-the World Wide Web. And, as with most things computer-oriented, you'll find that once you've spent a few moments with it, HTML isn't nearly as difficult as you might have originally imagined. A Short HTML History
HTML developed a few years ago as a subset of SGML (Standard Generalized Mark-up Language) which is a higher-level mark-up language that has long been a favorite of the Department of Defense. Like HTML, it describes formatting and hypertext links, and it defines different components of a document. HTML is definitely the simpler of the two, and although they are related, there are few browsers that support both. Because HTML was conceived for transmission over the Internet (in the form of Web pages), it is much simpler than SGML, which is more of an application-oriented document format. While it's true that many programs can load, edit, create, and save files in the SGML format (just as many programs can create and save programs in the Microsoft Word format), SGML is not exactly ideal for transmission across the Internet to many different types of computers, users, and browser applications. HTML is more suited to this task. Designed with these considerations in mind, HTML lets you, the designer, create pages that you are reasonably sure can be read by the entire population of the Web. Even users who are unable to view your graphics, for instance, can experience the bulk of what you're communicating if you design your HTML pages properly. At the same time, HTML is a simple enough format (at least currently) that typical computer users can generate HTML documents without the benefit of a special application. Creating a WordPerfect-format document would be rather difficult by...