html for dummies
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What this is about
For most people HTML is exactly four letters (similar to HTTP) and a little hard to grasp and understand what it really means or does. In this page I will explain some of the main things you should know about the HTML web standard.
I will keep this on a general level and not go into details about the HTML versions and differences or the markup language itself. In fact, there is not really much you have to know on a general level about HTML as a standard.
What this is not about
As just mentioned this is not about the markup language itself, i.e. how you write documents in HTML. There is way too much to know for that and there are already excellent resources out there if you like to learn and write HTML.
The best and most of all free resource is W3Schools which has basically everything there is to know about writing HTML. So, if you like to know what HTML is read this page first and then if you like to know how to write HTML head over to W3Schools. Oh, and thanks for visiting.
About the Standard
First thing you need to know and understand is that HTML is a standard.
"What is a standard good for?" you ask. Well, two things mainly. With a standard everybody should know (a) how to use a certain thing but also (b) how to implement this thing.
As a practical example and on one side we have the people who make a web browser and with the standard they know what they have to implement into their web browser software. On the other side we have the web designers and developers who thanks to the standard know how to write a web page.
If the web browser does not conform to a standard the web developer will have a problem to write a web page. On the other side if the web developer creates a web page without writing proper code the web browser will have a problem displaying the page. Only when both sides comply to the standard we see a properly functioning web page and have a perfect browsing experience.
The Internet Explorer Standard
If you heard about problems with Internet Explorer and its compliance this is exactly one of this areas where we have (or had) a disconnect between these two sides. To be fair here, we have to acknowledge that most of these problems are gone in the current IE versions and not everything was historically so bad in the beginning--when Microsoft had a de facto monopoly. There was basically just one browser and all designers and developers followed this Internet Explorer Standard.
The Browser Standard Rallies
The problems basically surfaced when Mozilla with Firefox came along and others like Opera, Safari and Chrome began their rallies as well. They all made a pledge to conform to the "official" standard as much as possible and revealed Microsoft's interpretation of the standard in IE.
Does this mean that all browsers act the same way now? Unfortunately no!
Still today, for some rules in the standard it is not exactly clear how it has to be interpreted. Hence, some browsers have their own interpretation and there are little differences. Also the change to HTML5 (Version 5) is causing some problems because not all browsers are updating the standard in the same pace.
Second thing you need to know is the main characteristics of the markup language. What does the standard do or help to achieve.
Speaking striktly about the standard, the main characteristic of HTML lies in the two characters ML which stands for markup language. Markup language in its most simple terms means how to describe or annotate text.
Try it for yourself with an simple example: Take a magazine, newspaper or book and try to describe the text. You will end up with things like title, paragraph, chapter, head, foot, body and whatnot. This is markup and thanks to the HTML standard we all have the rules to markup the text for creating a web page. The word markup here and in the previous sentence is italic or emphasized. I used markup language to make it look that way.
If you like to see markup language in full swing and you look at this on a PC simply right click on your mouse and depending on your browser you will see something like "View Page Source". Once you click that you should get a new page or window and see HTML, the markup for that particular web page.
Which leaves us puzzling with HT, the first two characters in HTML, which stands for hypertext. Hypertext can be seen as übertext—there is something over or beyond the (current) text. Probably overlooked by many people but actually one of the main characterics about web pages are the links. Not surprisingly they are in fact called hyperlinks. Thanks to links we have more text, text over and beyond the current text. Back in the 1960s, i.e. long before the Internet, somebody by the name of Ted Nelson thought about such a concept. Instead of calling it overtext or beyondtext he coined the term hypertext.
When we say we surf the Internet and spend hours and hours by just jumping from one page to the next—by using these hyperlinks—we see and hopefully enjoy hypertext. If you like you can call it hypertexting, but don't expect people to understand what you are saying.
In my opinion, the hyperlink is really the most revolutionary thing that Tim Berners-Lee created when he introduced HTML and the World Wide Web.