What Does HTML Stand for?

By Jennifer Claerr

HTML stands for hypertext markup language, the language used to produce documents for the World Wide Web. Using tags and attributes, HTML tells Web browsers how to display the text, hyperlinks and images on a Web page, as well as how the page should respond when a user interacts with it. HTML pages are typically distributed on the Web using hypertext transfer protocol. HTML pages almost always use the ".htm" or ".html" file extension.

HTML's History

HTML was developed in the early 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee as a way to link separate, but related, text documents together in a web-like structure. In 1994, the Internet Engineers Task Force created the HTML Working Group, which developed the HTML 2.0 specification. Some Web browser developers began to add their own tags to HTML, however other browsers couldn't support the new tags. In 1994 the World Wide Web Consortium, called the W3C, was formed to help standardize the World Wide Web. After 1995, the W3C played an important role in developing new HTML specifications, as did browser vendors.

The Function of HTML

HTML pages contain information about the fonts, text, colors, justification, background colors, paragraphs, images, hyperlinks and other elements of a Web page. Many tags can be modified with attributes, which provide more information about how the page should be displayed. HTML tags and attributes are case insensitive, so uppercase or lowercase letters can be used when writing HTML code. Separate pages, called cascading style sheets, can be used in place of HTML tags to specify the layout of an HTML page.

Some Features of HTML

Every HTML page must have an HTML tag and a Body tag at the beginning of the page code. Anchor tags, represented by an "A," create hyperlinks in HTML. Img tags indicate where images should be displayed on the page and direct the browser to where that image is stored. Paragraph tags -- just a "P" -- show where paragraphs begin and end, whereas line break tags -- written as "Br" -- simply create a single carriage return. Table tags create tables with columns, rows and cells to help organize data and text on the page. HTML can be written in a plain text editor, but there are also dedicated editors that simplify the process.

The Roles of HTML Markup

There are two types of HTML markup; physical and logical. Physical markup specifies the exact method in which a document should be displayed. For example, the bold tag, a "B," tells the Web browser to display text in bold. Logical markup describes the intended function of a string of text or other element, which is left to the Web browser to interpret. The Strong tag is an example of logical markup, which most Web browsers display in bold, but could display in any way that emphasizes the text.

Web Browsers and HTML

No matter how a Web browser is programmed, it will be able to display a well-written HTML page effectively. The same page may look different in different browsers, but the functions remain the same. Most browsers, like Internet Explorer, display Web pages with all fonts, colors, images and links that can be browsed using a mouse or touch screen. However the Lynx browser displays the same page as text only and is navigated with a keyboard.