The World Wide Web Consortium Issues HTML 4.0 as a W3C Recommendation

Collaborative Efforts by Industry Players, Content Specialists and Experts Make the Web More Stable, Available and Interactive


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CAMBRIDGE, MA, USA -- 18 December, 1997 -- Furthering its mission to lead the Web to its full potential, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced the release the HTML 4.0 specification as a W3C Recommendation. HTML 4.0 is the W3C's latest Recommendation for HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the basic publishing language of the Web. A W3C Recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by all W3C Members, who are in favor of supporting its adoption by the industry.

"Insisting on HTML 4.0 compliance now will preserve your free choice of suppliers of Web software, tools and applications well into the future," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web. "With HTML 4.0, any Web application can be vendor-independent. There really is no excuse for tying yourselves or your partners to proprietary solutions."

HTML 4.0

Developed throughout 1997 (first public working draft issued July 1997) by the W3C HTML Working Group, HTML 4.0 makes the Web more appealing, more accessible, and more international. The W3C HTML Working Group includes key industry players such as Adobe Systems, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Netscape Communications, Novell, Reuters, SoftQuad, Spyglass and Sun Microsystems; content specialists at HotWired, PathFinder and Verso, and experts in the fields of accessibility and internationalization.

HTML 4.0 improves the look and functionality of Web pages, offering several key improvements over the current HTML 3.2 Recommendation. "HTML 4.0 gives Web designers the ability to create dynamic visually exciting pages that are accessible to all,",said Dr. Dave Raggett, lead architect of W3C's HTML activity. "It includes improvements to forms and tables as well as frames, scripts and support for style sheets. We are really pleased with the features for accessibility and internationalization."

Features include advanced forms, in-line frames, enhanced tables, and support for objects and scripts. Additionally, HTML 4.0 provides the markup needed for any language including multilingual documents; allowing authors to manage differences in language, text direction, and character encoding schemes. HTML 4.0 is also more accessible to users with disabilities, allowing table and form text to be rendered into braille or speech.

"Greater accessibility of the Web will be an important outcome of widespread implementation of HTML 4.0," added Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office. "The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative worked closely with the HTML Working Group to ensure the incorporation of improvements which support access for individuals with disabilities, such as better description of images for presentation of information through textual browsers."

W3C Recommendation Process

Specifications developed within W3C working groups must be formally approved by the Membership. Consensus is reached after a specification has proceeded through the following review stages: Working Draft, Proposed Recommendation, and Recommendation.

Stable working drafts are submitted by working groups to the W3C Director for consideration as a Proposed Recommendation. Upon the Director's approval, the document becomes a "Proposed Recommendation", and is forwarded to the W3C Membership to vote whether it should become an official W3C Recommendation. The W3C Advisory Committee -- comprised of one official representative from each Member organization -- submits one of the following votes on the Proposed Recommendation: yes; yes, with comments; no, unless specified deficiencies are corrected; no, this Proposed Recommendation should be abandoned.

During the Member review and voting period (approximately 6 weeks), the Working Group resolves minor technical issues (if any) and communicates its results to the W3C Director. After this time, the Director announces the disposition of the document; it may become a W3C Recommendation (possibly with minor changes), revert to Working Draft status, or may be dropped as a W3C work item.

W3C HTML Validation Service

To further promote the reliability and fidelity of communications on the Web, W3C today also introduced the W3C HTML Validation Service at http://validator.w3.org/ .

Content providers can use this service to validate their Web pages against the HTML 4.0 Recommendation, thereby ensuring the maximum possible audience for their Web pages. In addition, it can be used to check conformance against previous versions of HTML, including the W3C Recommendation for HTML 3.2 and the IETF HTML 2.0 standard. To allow authors to broaden their audience even further to those with disabilities, the service will be updated according to the guidelines produced by W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Software developers who write HTML editing tools can ensure interoperability with other Web software by verifying that the output of their tool complies with the W3C Recommendations for HTML.

"It's not just that HTML 4.0 works across browsers," added Berners-Lee. "It'll work across future tools and Web products. Any serious Web application should be HTML 4.0 compliant from now on."

The HTML 4.0 specification has been produced as part of the W3C HTML Activity. Please see attached Fact Sheet and testimonials document for additional information on HTML 4.0.

For information on HTML in particular, see http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/


About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and promote the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users; reference code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 225 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see http://www.w3.org/

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