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

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Testimonials | Fact Sheet


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 .

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


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

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HTML 4.0 Testimonials

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


"NetFront will support HTML 4.0 for consumer information appliances such as TVs, STBs, word processors, home game machines, PDAs, smart phones, car navigation systems, display terminals, and etc. Actually more than 30 products are using NetFront browser in non-PC market. We are focusing on the lite implementation of HTML latest specification for memory-severe devices. We will also propose new HTML extensions suitable for a variety of Internet-enabling consumer devices."

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


"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


"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


"Bitstream is extremely pleased to support the World Wide Web Consortium's Recommendation 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.


"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


"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


"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 is a triumph for the Web community. New specifications covering scripting, compound documents and document relationships will evolve the Web framework to support the sophisticated needs that arise in Intranet and Extranet site development."

-- Jon Radoff, Chief Technology Officer, Eprise Corporation


"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


"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 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


"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


"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


"We welcome the announcement of the W3C HTML 4.0 Recommendation. 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


"We at Lotus are excited about the functionality contained in HTML 4.0, because its new features, such as the style objects and new events model, will allow us to expose more of the rich functionality of Lotus Notes to Web Browers. We look forward to supporting HTML 4.0 in both the Lotus Notes 5.0 client and the Lotus Domino 5.0 Web Server."

-- Eileen Rudden, Senior Vice President of Communications Products Development, Lotus Development Corporation


"The W3C is leading the way with HTML 4.0, making the web richer and accessible to everyone. Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 currently supports HTML 4.0."

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


"The HTML 4.0 specification represents the culmination of over three years of work. I am proud to have been part of this effort since late 1993, and I look forward to playing an ongoing role as HTML continues to evolve."

-- Murray Maloney, Proprietor, Muzmo Communication Inc.


"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 looking forward to fully supporting HTML 4.0 in a future version of Communicator."

-- Dave Rothschild, Vice President, Client Products, Netscape Communications Corp.


"Novell enthusiastically supports W3C in its announcement of the HTML 4.0 Recommendation 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."

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


"As an active participant in the W3C since its inception, we applaud the fact that HTML 4.0 provides a standard way to use up-to-date and powerful Web techniques. An earlier draft of the specification is already supported in HoTMetaL PRO 4.0, and we will be upgrading our products to support the final version."

-- Bruce Sharpe, VP Development, SoftQuad, Inc.


"HTML 4.0 is a watershed in online standards. It does the right thing. By eliminating presentational tags of some browser manufacturers, HTML 4.0 gives us a firm foundation for implementing Cascading Style Sheets. The sooner we can all be using style sheets the better -- the quick turnaround and clear thinking that has gone into HTML 4.0 will let us turn our attention to the browser manufacturers and ask them to give us style-sheet implementations that work. "

-- David Siegel, Chairman, Studio Verso, and Author, Creating Killer Web Sites


"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


"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


"This is exciting news for the improvement and advancement of the World Wide Web. On behalf of AnchorDesk's 1,000,000 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

HTML 4.0 Fact Sheet


In recognition of the increasing importance of the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has released HTML 4.0 (HyperText Markup Language version 4.0) as a W3C Recommendation. This represents a culmination of work with Member organizations over a period of several years. HTML 4.0 builds upon W3C's earlier Recommendation for HTML 3.2 adding a host of new features.

The HTML 4.0 specification was developed by the W3C HTML Working Group, which 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 is the product of a cross-industry agreement on a wide range of features for richer and more accessible Web pages. The W3C Recommendation for HTML 4.0 comes at a time when people are browsing the Web from an increasingly broad range of devices, from smart TVs to cellular phones. HTML is now a fundamental building block for networked computers and mission critical information systems for corporations and their trading partners.

The original HTML specification was written in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, now Director of W3C, while he was at CERN. Innovations from NCSA and other contributors were reviewed under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force, and published as the HTML 2.0 specification (RFC 1866), edited by Dan Connolly, now the Architecture Domain Leader at W3C. Subsequent work by W3C led to the HTML 3.2 Recommendation, representing industry consensus on HTML features in 1996.

Key Features

HTML is very widely used as the data format for documents on the World Wide Web. HTML 4.0 is an SGML application conforming to the International Standard ISO 8879 - Standard Generalized Markup Language. It enables hypertext documents to be represented using text-based markup, providing interoperability across a wide range of platforms.

HTML 4.0 includes features for basic document idioms such as headings, lists, paragraphs, tables and images, as well as hypertext links, and electronic forms. These can be rendered on graphical displays, text-only displays or speech-based browsers, as well as printed to hardcopy media. Additional features support meta-information describing link relationships and document properties, such as authorship, and copyright statements.

HTML 4.0 adds enhancements in several areas to make the Web more appealing for both content providers and users:

  • Object Support, Script and Style Elements: Provides a standard way for authors to embed objects and scripts, and support style sheets in their documents.
  • 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: Row and Column Groupings and Improved Border Control deliver additional design control to improve table performance and power.
  • Additional Named Entities: Adds support for important symbols and glyphs used in mathematics, markup and internationalization.

Scripts allow Web applications to dynamically update pages, while style sheets give rich control over appearence. This together with the improvements to forms and tables makes HTML 4.0 a great improvement on 3.2 for building exciting pages that load quickly.

HTML 4.0 includes many features that promise to open up the Web to people with disabilities, for instance, richer descriptions for images, labels for form fields, and ways to associate table data with headers for use with speech-based browsers or Braille readers.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is developing detailed authoring guidelines for how to make your pages accessible to all. This will open up the Web to millions of users who hitherto have been held back by pages designed only for people using graphical browsers.

World-wide 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 direction text.


HTML has been applied to a very wide range of applications. For example: 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. It is increasingly being used for building new corporate-wide information systems for companies and their trading partners (intranets and extranets).

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 can also be used to access information held on local media such as CD-ROMs.

Further information on HTML can be found at

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