About the HTML 4.0 Specification 


  1. How to read the specification
  2. How the specification is organized
  3. Acknowledgments

This document has been written with two types of readers in mind: HTML authors and HTML implementors. We hope the specification will provide authors with the tools they need to write efficient, attractive, and accessible documents, without overexposing them to HTML's implementation details. Implementors, however, should find all they need to build user agents that interpret HTML correctly.

The specification has been written with two modes of presentation in mind: electronic and printed. Although the two presentations will no doubt be similar, readers will find some differences. For example, links will not work in the printed version (obviously), and page numbers will not appear in the electronic version. In case of a discrepancy, the electronic version is considered the authoritative version of the document.

How to read the specification 

The specification may be approached in several ways:

How the specification is organized 

This specification includes the following sections:

Section 2: Introduction to HTML 4.0.
The introduction gives an overview of what can be done with HTML 4.0. It also provides some design tips for developing good HTML habits.
Sections 3 - 11: HTML 4.0 reference manual.
The bulk of the reference manual consists of the HTML language reference, which defines all elements and attributes of the language.

This document has been organized by topic rather than by the grammar of HTML. Topics are grouped into three categories: structure, presentation, and interactivity. Although it is not easy to divide HTML constructs perfectly into these three categories, the model reflects the designers' experience that separating a document's structure from its presentation produces more effective and maintainable documents.

The language reference consists of the following information:

Section 12: Quick reference indexes.
Two indexes give readers rapid access to the definition of all elements and attributes The indexes also summarize some key characteristics of each element and attribute.
Section 13: Appendixes.
The appendix contains information about changes from HTML 3.2, performance and implementation notes, and how W3C and other organizations interact with respect to HTML.


Thanks to everyone who has helped to author the working drafts that went into the HTML 4.0 specification, and all those who have sent suggestions and corrections. A particular thanks to T.V. Raman for his work on improving the accessibility of HTML forms for people with disabilities.

The authors of this specification, the members of the W3C HTML Working Group, deserve much applause for their diligent review of this document, their constructive comments, and their hard work: John D. Burger, Steve Byrne, Martin J. Dürst, Daniel Glazman, Scott Isaacs, Murray Maloney, Steven Pemberton, Jared Sorensen, Powell Smith, Robert Stevahn, Ed Tecot, Jeffrey Veen, Mike Wexler, Misha Wolf, and Lauren Wood.

Thank you Dan Connolly for thoughtful input and guidance as chairman of the HTML working group. Thank you Sally Khudairi for your indispensible work on the press release.

Of particular help from the Inria at Sophia-Antipolis were Janet Bertot, Bert Bos, Stephane Boyera, Daniel Dardailler, Yves Lafon, Håkon Lie, Chris Lilley, and Colas Nahaboo.

Lastly, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee without whom none of this would have been possible.