HTML5 for web designers. Part 1: A Brief History of Markup Language

Original author: Jeremy Keith
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HTML5 for web designers

  1. A Brief History of Markup Language
  2. HTML5 Model
  3. Multimedia
  4. Form 2.0
  5. Semantics
  6. HTML5 and current conditions

HTML is a language that unites the world wide web. With just a set of simple tags, mankind has managed to create an incomparable system of linked pages and websites, from Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia, to personal blogs and sites dedicated to cats similar to Hitler.

HTML5 is the latest version of this language. But despite the fact that she is going to bring significant changes and new opportunities, it cannot be said that this happens for the first time and before that the language did not develop. Developed and constantly improved, and from its very appearance.

Like the World Wide Web in general, HTML, the HyperText Mark-up Language, is the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. In 1991, he wrote a work entitled “HTML Tags,” in which he described a little less than two dozen tags he proposed for marking up web pages.

The idea to use code words inside triangular brackets, however, does not belong to Sir Tim. Such a system at that time already existed and was used in SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), and instead of inventing something from scratch, Sir Tim considered it more rational to take existing solutions as a basis. A similar approach was applied along the whole way to HTML5 in development processes.

From IEFT to W3C: The Road to HTML 4

HTML version 1 never existed. The first official specification was immediately HTML 2.0, and its organization IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force, Special Commission for Internet Development) issued it. Many of the language features described in this specification were based on third-party products already used. For example, the tag for inserting pictures on pages was implemented in the Mosaic browser, which was the leader at that time (we are talking about 1994), and then simply migrated to the standard for HTML 2.0.

The IEFT baton was later picked up by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium, World Wide Web Consortium), which dealt with all subsequent versions of HTML. In the second half of the nineties, active work was carried out on revising and changing specifications, which in the end (or rather, in 1999) gave birth to HTML 4.01.

After that, the first key turn came in the history of HTML.


A new version of the markup language after HTML 4.01 was called XHTML 1.0. “X” in the name meant eXtreme, and web developers were required to cross their arms each time they pronounced the word.

No, of course not. In fact, “X” meant eXtensible (“expandable”), and crossing the arms was optional.

The specification itself for XHTML 1.0 was no different from HTML 4.01. No new tags or parameters were added - the difference was only in the syntax rules. If in HTML developers were given complete freedom regarding the style of writing code, in XHTML it was required to abide by the rules of the XML language - much more rigid and intolerant of liberties - on which the majority of the technologies developed by the Consortium were based.

Strict rules, however, came just in time. They encouraged coders to adhere to a single style, for example, to write all tags and parameters exclusively in lower case, while in HTML one could do as necessary.

The release of XHTML 1.0 coincided with an increased level of support for modern style sheet browsers - CSS - and the strong syntax of XHTML has strengthened in the development community with a reputation for being the best way to write markup code.

Then there was XHTML 1.1.

If version 1.0 was just HTML made for XML, then XHTML 1.1 is already real, pure XML. In the sense that it was no longer possible to apply mime-type text / html to itand it was necessary to designate the document as formatted in XML. However, in that case, it could not be displayed by the most popular browser at that time - Internet Explorer - so to put into practice this language was clearly not an option.

It seemed that the W3C in its development was beginning to lose touch with the reality that the global network lived on.

XHTML 2: no, it’s not getting into any gates

If the hero of Dustin Hoffman from the movie "Graduate" was a web designer, the W3C told him only one word: XML.

The consortium was sure that HTML had become obsolete after the fourth version, and began work on XHTML 2, whose task was to bring the network to a bright XML future. And despite the fact that the name remained the same, the new version had absolutely nothing to do with XHTML 1. Moreover, it was not going to be backward compatible with its predecessors and old versions of HTML (and therefore with all existing network content). Instead, she was supposed to introduce a new clean language, not burdened by any remnants of past specifications.

In other words, it was nonsense.

Split: W (HATWG) TF?

An uprising has ripened among the Consortium. It was obvious that he was going to lead the development of standards - albeit new, clean and beautiful - but completely not meeting the needs of the modern community of web designers and developers. Opera, Apple and Mozilla were clearly not happy with this, as they expected a completely different one - more emphasis on formats that would expand the possibilities for creating web applications.

The beginning of the changes was laid in 2004 at one of the meetings. Ian Hickson, who at that time was an employee of Opera Software, put forward a proposal to engage in the development of HTML to a level that allows you to use this language for web applications. The offer was rejected.

Frustrated rebels were forced to break away from the Consortium and organize their own group: Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, abbreviated WHATWG.

From Web Apps 1.0 to HTML5

The principle of operation of WHATWG was somewhat different from what it was in W3C. At W3C, questions are raised, debated, and the final decision is passed by universal suffrage. In the WHATWG, questions are also raised, discussed, but the final decisions as to what is included in the specification and what is not are left to the editor-in-chief - Jan Hickson.

It may seem that the system in W3C is more democratic and honest, but practice shows that endless disputes and internal skirmishes terribly slow down the development process. In the WHATWG, where everyone can contribute, but the final word remains with the Chief, things are moving much faster. Glavred, however, does not have absolute power - a selected group of leading persons can challenge his decision in the unlikely event that it requires it.

Initially, WHATWG was preoccupied with two specifications — Web Forms 2.0 and Web Apps 1.0 — both of which were supposed to be extensions to HTML. But over time, they were combined into one common, simply named HTML5.


While WHATWG was working on HTML5, the W3C continued to channel with its XHTML 2. This is not to say that this whole thing was slipping into shit. She sank slowly into it.

In October 2006, Sir Tim Berners-Lee admitted on his blog that the idea of ​​moving the network from HTML to XML was stupid. A few months later, the W3C issued a new installation for the HTML Working Group: it was reasonably decided that future versions of HTML should be based on the WHATWG experience, instead of doing something from scratch.

All these U-turns and course changes led to a somewhat confusing situation. For a while, W3C simultaneously worked on two completely incompatible markup languages ​​- XTHML 2 and HTML 5 (note with a space) - while WHATWG, a separate organization, dealt with the HTML5 specification (without a space), which was to become the basis for another specification in the W3C. Horseradish grow together here, what's what. It was easier to deal with the sequence of events in Memento and the work of David Lynch.

XHTML is dead, long live XHTML syntax

The situation began to clear up in 2009, when the W3C announced that there would be no more updates on XHTML 2. In fact, they simply officially recognized that the format was dead from birth.

However, in a strange way, instead of dispensing with unnecessary attention, the death of XHTML 2 gave rise to some malicious malevolence. Opponents of XML turned the news into a call to abandon XHTML 1, although with XHTML 2, as we know, it had nothing to do. In turn, proponents of XHTML 1, adherents of strict syntax, were worried that HTML5 would again legitimize sloppy layouts.

The latter, however, should not seem like a serious problem - as we will discuss later, everyone is free to choose the degree of HTML5 syntax severity for themselves.

HTML5 development

The current state of HTML5 is not as hazy as before, but still not too transparent.

Two organizations are currently working on this format. WHATWG is developing a specification based on the principle of "first run, then verify." The W3C HTML Working Group, in turn, takes this specification and passes it through the “first check, then run” process. As you can see, such cooperation can hardly be called strong and effective. But at least, it seems like the question “put or not put a space” in the name of the standard was resolved (it is not necessary to put it, if that is HTML5).

What is most worrying for web designers who have already tested some of the features of the new language is the question “When will it be ready?” In an interview, Jan Hickson mentioned the year 2022 as the date when HTML5 gets the status of “proposed recommendation”. This caused a wave of indignation among designers, since they had no idea what the “proposed recommendation” meant, but they knew for sure that they obviously did not have enough fingers to calculate how many years they still had to wait until 2022.

If you look, the disturbances are unfounded. In this case, the “proposed recommendation” means that by this time the browsers should have full support for all the features of the language. In this case, focusing on 2022 is even too bold; we all know that many browsers had difficulty picking up even existing standards at one time. Take Internet Explorer, which took more than ten years to begin to support the elementary tag .

The date that you really need to focus on is 2012, when HTML5 will be assigned the status of “candidate recommendation”, which means that the specification is finalized and as such the standard is ready.

But, of course, this will not mean that all of it will be immediately available for use - you will need to monitor how browsers gradually add support for certain features and start using them as they appear. It was exactly the same with CSS 2.1, in fact: we began to apply the capabilities of this standard as browsers included its support in parts. If we would rather wait until they realize it in its entirety, we would wait until now.

In other words, there will not be a moment when you can say, “Bang, HTML5 time has come!” But you can start working with them now. Fortunately, this language was not born through revolution, but in the process of evolution, and is based on what was created before it. Thus, we can say that if you use any previous versions of HTML, you are already using HTML5.

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