A Brief History of HTML+/3.0, HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0

image of a brief history of html 3.0, html 3.2 and html 4.0HTML+/3.0

In 1993 and 1996, respectively, HTML+ and HTML 3.0 were both submitted to the W3C. Both were proposals to extend the current HTML 2.0 standard. Though neither was given final approval as a standard, they marked the earliest appearances of some of the future features included as part of the HTML standards. Some of these features Setting the Stage 5 became part of the next standard, such as tables; others did not, such as the <fig> element, implemented to create figures (images with captions). During this time period (1993–1996), the “browser wars” heated up. Netscape’s Navigator had become the dominant browser; based on NCSA’s Mosaic, it would quickly replace its predecessor. Quick on Navigator’s heels, Microsoft released Internet Explorer.


In the effort by these two companies to capture market share, each began to offer newer and better features aimed at the HTML author. Each added support for features not in HTML 2.0; some of these worked in both browsers, others in only one or the other. The result was a no-win situation for both the browser makers and HTML authors; the latter became frustrated by the schism. Taking matters in their own hands, many started posting “best viewed with” or “designed for” messages on their sites. Finally, the W3C decided the best approach was to regroup, take all the browser makers’ “suggestions” into consideration, and incorporate them in the next version of
HTML.

 

HTML 3.2

HTML 3.2 became an official W3C recommendation in January 1997. According to the specification, “HTML 3.2 aims to capture recommended practice as of early ‘96, and as such be used as a replacement for HTML 2.0.” In other words, the W3C wanted to reclaim HTML as a standard, yet try to address all that the browser makers had been creating on their own.

 

The following features were added in HTML 3.2:


■■ <style> allows for the inclusion of style code in an HTML document. Usually cascading style sheets (CSS).

■■ <script> allows for the inclusion of scripting code in an HTML document. Usually JavaScript.

■■ Color (via the #nnnnnn format) allows for the specification of colors in a hexidecimal format.

■■ <div> allows the author to create a logical section of their document to which styles can be applied.

■■ <center> allows the author to center a section of the document.

■■ Tables are designed for the tabular presentation of data but also used to create a grid on the page with which page elements can be placed with better accuracy.

■■ <big>, <small>, <sub>, <sup> are inline elements that created bigger, smaller, subscripted, and superscripted text.

■■ <applet> allows for the inclusion of Java applications in the document.

■■ Imagemaps are single images that have hyperlinked hotspots. What happens when the user clicks on the image depends on where on the image the user clicked.

■■ <font> allows for font control such as the name, size, and color of the font to be displayed.


Version 3.2 incorporated many of the more advanced elements that authors use today, as shown here:

<html>
<head>
<TITLE>A sample HTML 3.2 document</TITLE>
</head>
<body>
<center>
<h1>Hello world!</h1>
<p><FONT face="arial">This is an example of a<br>
document written in HTML 3.2</font>
<hr>
<pre>Here is some preformatted text.</pre>
<IMG src="Image.gif">
<a href="next.html">next document</a>
<p><sup>&copy;</sup>1996, Michael Sauers
<center>
</body>
</html>


With the release of 3.2, the W3C had rescued HTML from becoming multiple proprietary versions supported by different browsers, but still there were differences, and more work was required to stabilize HTML.

 

HTML 4.0

Throughout 1997, the W3C worked hard to develop the next version of HTML. Their intention was twofold: to stabilize the propriety extensions added by the browser makers, and to anticipate what they would want and need in the future. This effort raised hopes that browsers would finally start to follow the standards, instead of creating their own. Finally, in December 1997, the HTML 4.0 recommendation was released.


This version added the following features:

■■ Internalization, allowing documents to be written in any language.

■■ The <!DOCTYPE> statement was added to allow the author to specify which version of HTML was being used.

■■ The <object> element standardized the proprietary <embed> element, both of which allowed the author to embed multimedia objects into their documents. For example, either of these elements could have been used to place a MPEG movie or sound file into the body of a document.

■■ Accessibility features, such as the <abbr> and <acronym> elements, along with the title and lang attributes, were added. These gave the author the ability to associate additional information in the document that might be used by software that assisted users with visual impairments or other accessibility issues.

■■ Support for style sheets was included to help in separating structure from style. In turn the <font> element was deprecated—that is, it was suggested that its use be limited if not stopped all together. Setting the Stage 7

■■ Additional table control was given, with the <colgroup>, <col>, <thead>, <tbody>, and <tfoot> elements. These gave the author the ability to apply style information to sections of tables. In sum, version 4.0 added no significant features to HTML itself. In most cases, the new features were extensions of the current features or offered support for other resources, such as CSS. Here’s an example of HTML 4.0’s support of CSS:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C/DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN">
<html>
<head>
<TITLE>A sample HTML 4.0 document</TITLE>
<style>
<!--
p {font-family: arial}
-->
</style>
</head>
<body lang=en>
<center>
<h1>Hello world!</h1>
<pThis is an example of a<br>
document written in HTML 4.0
<hr>
<pre>Here is some preformatted text.</pre>
<IMG src="Image.gif">
<a href="next.html">next document</a>
<p><sup>&copy;</sup>1996, Michael Sauers
<center>
</body>
</html>


Unlike earlier new versions of HTML, 4.0 was not designed to change HTML, but to improve it by making it more flexible and accessible. HTML 4.01: The Current Version In December 1999, the latest version of HTML was released. Dubbed HTML 4.01, its numbering indicated it was not intended to be a significant overhaul of HTML as previous upgrades had been. In this version, the W3C wanted to address some leftover issues and correct some errors in HTML 4.0. The updates to HTML 4.01 included removal of the mailto: action in forms, and use clarification of many attributes, including type, dir, and name. As such, HTML 4.01 could be likened to a patch released for software updates; and most authors were not affected by it.

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