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Brief History of HTML (Live Playground)


HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the backbone of web development, shaping the structure and layout of websites. In this tutorial, we will explore the history of HTML, from its beginnings to the latest version, and how it has evolved over time.

The Origins of HTML

HTML was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist working at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). He aimed to develop a system that would allow researchers to share and access documents across the internet easily.

HTML was inspired by SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), a markup language used for document management systems. The first public version of HTML was released in 1991, consisting of just 18 elements.

HTML Evolution: From HTML 2.0 to 4.01

In 1995, the HTML 2.0 specification was published by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). This version introduced new elements and attributes, including tables, forms, and image maps, enabling more complex and interactive web pages.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) took over HTML's development and released HTML 3.2 in 1997. This version introduced new elements, such as <font> and <center>, for styling and formatting. However, it was soon replaced by HTML 4.0 in 1998 and then HTML 4.01 in 1999. These versions focused on separating content (HTML) from presentation (CSS) and improving accessibility.

XHTML 1.0 and 1.1

In 2000, the W3C released XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) 1.0, a reformulation of HTML 4.01 using XML (Extensible Markup Language) syntax. XHTML aimed to create cleaner, more structured markup and improve compatibility with other XML-based languages.

XHTML 1.1, released in 2001, added some features like Ruby annotations and modularization, allowing developers to create customized markup languages by extending XHTML.

HTML5: The Modern HTML

In 2008, the W3C and the WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) started collaborating on HTML5, which was finalized and published in 2014. HTML5 introduced numerous new elements, such as <article>, <nav>, <header>, <footer>, <video>, and <canvas>, providing better support for multimedia, web applications, and semantic markup.

The <!DOCTYPE html> declaration in HTML5 is a simplified version compared to previous HTML versions:

<!DOCTYPE html>

HTML5 also enhanced forms by adding new input types, like email, number, and date, as well as form validation attributes.

<label for="email">Email:</label>
<input type="email" id="email" name="email" required />
<input type="submit" value="Submit" />
Live Playground, Try it Yourself


The history of HTML is a story of continuous evolution and improvement, driven by the changing needs of the web. From its inception as a simple markup language to the feature-rich HTML5 we use today, HTML has played a critical role in shaping the modern web. As a web developer, understanding the history of HTML can provide valuable insights into the reasons behind specific features, best practices, and future developments.