World Wide Web Consortium publishes Public Draft of HTML 4.0

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Key Industry Players, Content Specialists and Experts Team-Up to Make the Web More Available and Interactive

Testimonials | Director's Perspective


CAMBRIDGE, MASS., USA -- July 8, 1997 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced the first public working draft of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) 4.0, the latest version of the Web's basic publishing language. "HTML 4.0 demonstrates the power of the W3C process," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and Inventor of the World Wide Web. "The W3C HTML Working Group is making 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, SoftQuad, Spyglass and Sun Microsystems; content specialists at HotWired, PathFinder and Verso, and experts in the fields of accessibility and internationalization.

Powerful New Features

"HTML 4.0 offers Web designers the solid foundations they need to exploit a host of exciting new features without the hidden costs of proprietary extensions", says Dr. Dave Raggett, lead architect of W3C's HTML activity. "You get much greater control over forms, frames and tables, and all the benefits of scripts, style sheets and objects."

The HTML 4.0 working draft builds on the multimedia and hypertext features which debuted in the HTML 3.2 Recommendation published in January, 1997. HTML 4.0 adds enhancements in several areas to make the Web more appealing for both content providers and users:

  • Advanced Forms: Content providers can display rich HTML in any button, create read-only controls, group form controls together, add labels to their controls, and provide keyboard shortcuts on controls, and titles on any element.
  • Frame Improvements: Advanced frame features, including in-line frames, allow authors to create compound documents by placing frames in HTML documents.
  • Table Enhancements: Column Groupings and Improved Border Control deliver additional design control to improve table performance and power.
  • Object Support, Script and Style Elements: Provides a standard way for authors to embed objects and scripts, and support style sheets in their documents
  • Additional Named Entities: Adds support for important symbols and glyphs used in mathematics, markup and internationalization.

Greater Accessibility

"The Consortium-wide commitment to improving access for people with disabilities affects this specification in many ways," said W3C Technology and Society Domain Leader Jim Miller. "Our Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) will reach out to authors everywhere to encourage use of these features, as well as introduce new ones."

The new form and table features in HTML 4.0 greatly improve web access for people with disabilities. The table enhancements support use of captions for rendering table content to braille or speech. The forms enhancements support groupings, labels, keyboard shortcuts and titles. Together, these reduce barriers, opening up the web to millions more users worldwide.


Worldwide access was critical to the members of the W3C HTML Working Group. Incorporating the expertise of leading experts on internationalization, HTML 4.0 provides the markup needed for any language including multilingual documents -- authors can now make their documents more accessible to users, whatever their language. HTML 4.0 accomplishes this by fully supporting the international ISO 10646 character set, and allowing authors to manage differences in language, text direction, and character encoding schemes. For example, authors can now use right-to-left or mixed text.

The HTML 4.0 specification has been produced as part of the W3C HTML Activity. After a period of public and Member review, W3C expects it to be endorsed as a new W3C Recommendation.

Please see attached HTML 4.0 Director's Perspective and testimonials document for additional information on HTML 4.0. For information on HTML in particular, see


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 180 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see

About the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science

Now in its third decade, MIT LCS is dedicated to the invention, development and understanding of information technologies expected to drive substantial technical and socio-economic change. The LCS has helped information technology grow from a mere curiosity to 10 percent of the industrial world's economies by its pioneering efforts in interactive computing, computer networking, distributed systems and public key cryptography. LCS members and alumni have started some thirty companies and have pioneered the Nubus, the X-Window System, the RSA algorithm, the Ethernet and spreadsheets.

For more information about the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, see


INRIA, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, is a public-sector scientific institute charged with conducting both fundamental and applied research, and with transferring research results to industry. INRIA is made up of five Research Units located at Rocquencourt (near Paris), Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Nancy and Grenoble. Areas of current research include information processing, advanced high speed networking, structured documents, and scientific computation.

For more information about INRIA, see

About Keio University

Keio University is one of Japan's foremost computer science research centers and universities. It is one of the oldest private universities in Japan, and has five major campuses around Tokyo. Keio University has been promoting joint research projects in cooperation with industry, government and international organizations, and is now becoming one of the research leaders for the network and digital media technology.

For more information on Keio University, see


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Access Co., Ltd. · Adobe Systems · Alis Technologies · Bitstream Inc. · Digital Equipment Corporation · Direct Marketing Association · Electricite de France · Ericsson · Fujitsu Limited · Grif · Hewlett Packard · IBM · Intermind Corporation · JavaSoft · Los Alamos National Laboratory · Microsoft · National University of Singapore · Netscape Communications · Novell · Studio Verso · UK Office for Library and Information Networking · University of Zurich · ZDNet AnchorDesk


"The W3C is leading the way with HTML 4.0, making the web richer and accessible to everyone. Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 Preview 2, available this month, will immediately support HTML 4.0."

-- David Cole, Vice President, Internet Client and Collaboration Group, Microsoft Corporation


"We believe that HTML 4.0 represents a significant advancement in the state of the art for web content and presentation. It enables content providers to create richer content for a wider global audience. By capturing and clearly specifying current practice in common browser behavior, as well as enhancing it, HTML 4.0 defines a solid, high functionality definition for content authors, as well as providing a well defined standard for browsers such as JavaSoft's HotJava(tm) Browser to adhere to. Coupled with Cascading Style Sheets, HTML 4.0 provides exciting opportunities for content authors to provide their own unique document styles, as well as enabling more highly tuned presentations for different media types and increasing accessability of web content for differently abled individuals. Additionally it is laying the foundation for the creation of HTML documents with dynamic, animated content, which will be a very compelling capability for Web content authors."

-- Steve Byrne, Senior Staff Engineer and System Architect, JavaSoft


"The W3C has done a very good job of integrating the Internet Proposed Standard on Internationalization of HTML (RFC 2070) into HTML 4.0, thus leveraging the full power of Unicode and providing a sound specification of HTML that enables authoring and browsing in almost all languages of the world. In agreement with Alis Technologies' mission and expertise, the Consortium certainly lives up to the first two Ws of the World Wide Web, and fortifies the qualification of HTML as its lingua franca."

-- François Yergeau, Senior Technology Advisor at Alis Technologies Inc.; Editor and co-Author of RFC 2070


"HTML 4.0 has extended forms to benefit all users, especially people with disabilities. We are looking forward to people using style sheets rather than relying on tables for layout effects as these have made the Web a no-go area for people using speech-based browsers."

-- T.V. Raman, Senior Computer Scientist, Adobe Systems


"Novell enthusiastically supports W3C in its announcement of the new HTML 4.0 specification including support for dynamic object content, internationalization, accessibility, locally executable scripts and frames. These important new features create a rich foundation for innovative Web applications suited to an increasingly sophisticated global audience. In combination with Cascading Style Sheets, HTML 4.0 makes it easier for large site publishers such as Novell to produce documents that are more dynamic and interactive, as well as consistent in appearance and quality. Consistent with our commitment to W3C and Internet standards, Novell is proud to be part of the HTML 4.0 development team and we look forward to the speedy approval and implementation of this specification."

-- Michael Mackay, Vice President of Corporate Architecture, Novell


"The evolution of HTML as an Internet standard has been central to the explosion of web technology. IBM is proud to have contributed to this pioneering effort with the W3C, and expects the enhanced functionality and global nature of the upgraded HTML to move the Web into new frontiers."

-- John Patrick, Vice President, Internet Technology, IBM


"As recently as two years ago, printed Web output frequently looked as if it came out of a typewriter gone berserk. Now, HTML 4.0 brings output close to that of standard Windows applications -- a much-needed feature for many of our customers. An HP Language Scientist, Dr. David Raggett, led this W3C effort and HP plans to develop even more dynamic Web printing capabilities."

-- Carolyn Ticknor, Vice President and General Manager, LaserJet Solutions Group, Hewlett Packard


"HTML is rapidly developing into the platform-independent, open standard for document publishing, multimedia, and crossware user interfaces. With support for CSS1 style sheets, scripting, frames and multimedia, HTML 4.0 represents a major step towards realizing this vision. As a leading supporter of open standards, Netscape is excited to participate in the creation of this major advancement for the Web. Building on the technology pioneered by Netscape in Navigator 2.0 and 3.0, Netscape was excited to introduce support for major elements of HTML 4.0 earlier this year with the launch of Communicator 4.0. Netscape is looking forward to fully supporting HTML 4.0 in a future version of Communicator once this standard is finalized."

-- Bob Lisbonne, Vice President, Client Product Marketing, Netscape


"This is exciting news for the improvement and advancement of the World Wide Web. On behalf of AnchorDesk's 500,000 subscribers and Web users everywhere, we heartily endorse this latest initiative from the W3C. Through our Web Interoperability Pledge (, we enthusiastically support the idea of a single global standard for creating and displaying Web pages. HTML 4.0 is yet another example of the W3C's crucial role as the arbiter of that standard."

-- Jesse Berst, Editorial Director, ZDNet AnchorDesk


"We welcome the announcement of the W3C HTML 4.0 Working Draft. As market forces drive the rapid evolution of sometimes divergent HTML, the W3C serves the important role of defining the common ground for interoperability and preserving the foundation needed for broad accessibility. We continue to look to the W3C's work as the core of our Laboratory standard for HTML, and we look forward to the successful collaboration among multiple parties that the W3C has consistently coordinated."

-- Tad Lane, Information Architecture Standards Editor, Los Alamos National Laboratory


"The UK Higher Education community welcomes the release of HTML 4.0. The rich functionality it provides, such as the Document Object Model, will be valuable in developing distance teaching and learning materials. Perhaps even more important is the involvement of the major browser vendors in developing the new specification. In the past couple of years the battles between software vendors have hindered developments, with many organisations, with experience of proprietary lock-ins in the past, unwilling to develop web services until the standards have stabilised. Now that the specifications are stabilising, we are looking forward to achieving Tim Berners-Lee's dream of universal access to networked resources in a platform and application independent way."

-- Brian Kelly, National Web Coordinator, UK Higher Education community, UK Office for Library and Information Networking


"Intermind fully endorses HTML 4.0 and looks forward to its broad use and implementation. As a leader in the 'push', or personalized information delivery marketplace, it's critical to support a standard that improves the visual presentation, reusability and automatic exchange of personalized content via 'channels'. The improvements in Web forms will be particularly valuable for Intermind Communicator users."

-- Matt Highsmith, President and CEO, Intermind Corporation


"HTML 4.0 is a major new release from W3C. Once again, the W3C has done a great service by developing consensus among the major software tool vendors. W3C's new specification incorporates greater accessibility to information on the Web by incorporating internationalization, fonts, and stylesheets, along with better tables and forms. Grif will continue to track the official specification in Symposia PRO and Symposia Doc Plus."

-- Betrand Melese, President, Grif S.A.


"Ericsson endorses the important work on HTML 4.0. It is a straight line towards maintaining global pragmatic interoperability of the Web through internationalisation, ease-of-use and access for all people. Ericsson currently works towards extending the Web through mobile interoperable solutions and building industrial-strength and reliable Web- and communications technology and HTML 4.0 will be an important step."

-- Staffan Liljegren, W3C Advisory Committee Member and Media Lab Research Manager, Ericsson


"Authors in the Middle East can at last get the control they need for right-to-left and mixed text. HTML 4.0 provides the markup needed for any language including multilingual documents, and has been tuned to exploit Unicode while keeping the ability to transmit pages in popular encodings, such as JIS, SJIS, and EUC for Japanese."

-- Dr. Martin Dürst, Department of Computer Science, University of Zurich


"From electricity production plants to domestic-clients feeding through all the electric networks, EDF process documentations have to be easy to create, append, browse or print and information easy to find. That for, HTML 4.0 improvments are very important for EDF and explain the reasons of EDF involvement in the W3C and notably in this working group."

-- François Raynaud, Web Program Manager, Electricite de France


"HTML 4.0 also has several important features for consumer information appliances such as TV and PDA. We will support HTML 4.0 by NetFront Web browser for home Internet appliances. The lite implementation is the key for such memory-severe devices."

-- Dr. Tomihisa Kamada, Executive Vice-President of R&D, Access Co., Ltd.


"Web designers all over the world support the W3C and their efforts to get the browser companies to cooperate. When browser manufacturers decide to create their own tags, we and our clients pay the price. This draft completely separates markup from style, which we take to be a good sign. We look forward to using tools that will let us return from low-performance 'GIF-and-table' approaches to rich structural markup, without paying the price of no style. I support the standards process and the W3C's further efforts to get browser companies to agree on their implementations."

-- David Siegel, President, Studio Verso


"Previously, our university's mathematics lecturers have put up course materials on the University Intranet Web by making use of GIF or Adobe PDF to represent complex mathematical expressions. This is obviously a tedious way to do things on the web. HTML 4.0 support for math expression is a welcomed improvement which will definitely make things easier for them. In addition, authoring of mixed-language web documents will become feasible with the introduction of internationalization features like <lang> tag and 'charset' parameter for specifying the language and character set used within a document. This will certainly help our Chinese and Japanese language teaching departments in their web content development. We will certainly recommend this to our project team working on multilingual web sites."

-- Dr. Tan Tin Wee, W3C Advisory Committee Member, National University of Singapore


"Internationalization features standardized in HTML 4.0 must be a great boon to Internet users of non-Western worlds. East Asian users of WWW, for example, will enjoy the benefits of explicit language handling and multibyte codeset support in a portable manner. Fujitsu believes the wide acceptance of this new HTML by Internet community."

-- Junji Maeyama, Director of the Board and General Manager of the Software Group, Fujitsu Limited


"As one of the core technologies of the Web, HTML is central to the future growth of Internet computing. Digital customers will benefit from a single common, version of HTML that includes all of the features users demand. We are pleased by the industry-wide support for HTML 4.0, and we will be supporting HTML 4.0 in our products."

-- Don Harbert, Vice President, Internet Systems Group, Digital Equipment Corporation


"Bitstream is extremely pleased to support the World Wide Web Consortium's public draft of HTML 4.0 and their efforts to develop an industry-wide standard for Web publishing. As a leader in font technology, Bitstream is committed to work with the W3C and with our TrueDoc technology licensees on resolving issues pertaining to fonts and the transportation of text across various platforms."

-- Jim Welch, Director of Emerging Technologies, Bitstream Inc.


"The introduction of HTML 4.0 marks an important step in the development of standards which will lead to smoothly functioning global commerce. As a strong supporter of the World Wide Web Consortium, the Direct Marketing Association is proud to be a part of this initiative."

-- H. Robert Wientzen, President and CEO, Direct Marketing Association

Director's Perspective

The Road to a W3C Recommendation

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director
8 July 1997

The raging tensions over HTML development have been the most visible fields of Web evolution in the last two years.  Media prognostications ranging from the salvation to the destruction of the Web have followed the announcement of proprietary incompatible extensions, and the later of common compatible specifications.

In many areas of development in W3C, a focused group of the 180+ Member organizations work hard together for a common understanding, and then the industry builds competitive products on top of a common solid base. That's how it is with HTTP, and with PICS, for example. Its working this way in Privacy work and Cascading Style Sheets too. But in HTML, the competition runs as far as competing for versions of the standard on which much of Web interoperability, and the warp and weft of most of cyberspace, relies. It's no wonder consumers, buyers and IT managers are concerned.

In HTML, things happen differently. Browsers, while supporting the latest standard, also support new features. Some features die in the market place and are never heard of again. Others become product differentiators between the cool and the even cooler. The features the market likes are quickly replicated, often in incompatible forms, by other browsers.  At this point, engineering teams at each technology provider are saddled with supporting two or sometimes three ways of doing the same thing.

That's the point at which, even for HTML, Members come to and need W3C. Lack of industry consensus is making product clumsy to maintain, and buyer excitement turns to buyer nervousness. It is time for the engineers from each company to sit around the W3C table and hash out a common solution. HTML 3.2, a W3C Recommendation as of January 1997, demonstrates the effectiveness of the W3C HTML Working Group.

An exciting by-product of this collaboration allows the designers to capture the best ideas of each of the original competing proposals. The W3C HTML Working Group is now working on HTML 4.0, and for the first time today unveiled a draft of its contents. At Web speed, the community is eager to know what HTML 4.0 will look like even though this is a working document and may change before ratification as a W3C Recommendation.

Each time a new version of the HTML specification is ratified, it answers questions like:

  • What tags should I use on my web pages?
  • How should we design intranet applications to be as valid in 10 years' time as today?
  • How should we judge the conformance of software we purchase?
  • How can we archive hypertext documents?

Each new version sets a higher plateau for the Web. HTML 4.0 is no exception. Many applications that rely on broad, interoperable support of forms enhancements will be feasible for the first time. Some will build new features on the HTML 4.0 plateau, introducing new tags which, if accepted by the market, may appear in a future version of HTML.

But the crazy feature rush may be slowing. HTML 4.0 has a powerful <object> element which allows extensions to be incorporated without changing HTML; Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), a W3C Recommendation released December 1996, accommodates a variety of format, layout, and desktop publishing features that were making an awkward entry into HTML; and W3C's Extensible Markup Language (XML) naturally supports a variety of applications which could compromise the design of HTML. So while you can read HTML 4.0 as being the next frame in an adventure movie being played faster than feels comfortable, it may mark the beginning of a maturity. HTML may one day be a closed book, a key to many new formats which build on it but don't threaten its interoperability.

The folks at W3C are equipped to handle it either way, as the market surges.  And you can be sure that on the Web as a whole, nothing is slowing down.

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