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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recently issued a specification for Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) 3.2 as a W3C Recommendation, responding to the need for an industry-wide consensus for updating HTML.
HTML 3.2 extends the existing Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard HTML 2.0 with ideas from several sources. The W3C's Editorial Review Board (ERB) incorporated designsfrom the HTML+ and HTML 3.0 proposals by Dave Raggett from Hewlett Packard Laboratories and extensions proposed by W3C member organizations, including major contributions originally popularized by Netscape Communications Corporation.
The original HTML specification was written by Tim Berners-Lee, Director of W3C, while he was at CERN. Innovations driven by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Mosaic team and many other contributors were incorporated by an IETF working group, leading to the HTML 2.0 specification (Request For Comments #1866), edited by W3C Architecture Domain Leader Dan Connolly.
As the Web industry grew up around the original specifications and proprietary extensions began cropping up, the W3C convened a small group of experts representing several leading organizations to cooperatively develop new HTML features. The first step was stabilizing a baseline version representing features already deployed, HTML 3.2. W3C is continuing to work with vendors on extensions to future versions of HTML for multimedia objects, scripting, style sheets, layout, forms, higher quality printing, and math.
HTML is the most visible part of the foundation of the World Wide Web. Along with the invention of a new scheme for naming any Internet information resource (URLs) and a new protocol for sending files across the Internet (HTTP), the Web needed a new data format for including links and device-independent formatting to glue it all together. For most Web users today, URLs and HTTP are mere mechanical details, while millions have learned to create home pages, brochures, picture galleries, and more with HTML.
HTML is different from many traditional document languages. Many word processing systems and other tools produce formatted files: "...draw this word, go up half a line, change to a bolder font, now draw this other word...". HTML uses structural markup which emphasizes the meaning of a document: "...This is the second item in a list; this is a top-level heading...". It's completely up to the HTML processor how to format the document for the recipient: as voice, as a text screen, as a graphical 'page', etc. This power comes from HTML 3.2's conformance to International Standard ISO 8879 - Standard Generalized Markup Language. Since the Web's hypertext documents are an SGML application, they are represented using text-based markup and are interoperability across a wide range of platforms.
HTML 3.2 includes features for basic document idioms such as headings, lists, paragraphs, tables and images, as well as hypertext links and electronic fill-in forms. HTML 3.2 documents are designed to be rendered in several ways: on graphical displays, text-only displays, speech-based browsers, and printed to hardcopy media. Additional HTML 3.2 features support meta-information describing link relationships and document properties such as authorship, content rating, and copyright statements.
HTML has been used for a very wide range of applications, including: personal home pages, advertising and marketing, product support, home shopping, newsletters, directories, news services, reference information and easy to use front ends to existing information systems.
HTML is typically used together with the Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) to provide access to Web pages on host computers on the global Internet or within Corporate intranets. It is equally useful on local media such as CD-ROMs, as hyperlinked help files or multimedia presentations, for example.
Further information on the World Wide Web Consortium is available via the Web at http://www.w3.org/
For information on HTML in particular, see http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/MarkUp/