What is HTML?

HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) is a display language, a text-only code which tells a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator) how to assemble a web page of text, pictures, and other multimedia content.

How does this work?

HTML pages are stored as ASCII (text-only) files on a web server. Pictures, stored as GIF or JPEG files, are also stored on a web server. When an HTML page is called up in a web browser, the HTML code tells the browser where on the web server the pictures are located, and where on the page those pictures are supposed to be displayed. The web browser, armed with this information, goes out onto the Internet, downloads the appropriate pictures, then lays them out in the browser window alongside the coded text.

To state this another way:

An HTML page, when displayed in a web browser, looks like a single file containing both text and pictures. In fact, an HTML page with pictures and text is really composed of separate elements: an ASCII (text-only) HTML document containing the text and HTML code, and a separate GIF or JPEG file for each picture.

Of course, there is more to most HTML pages than just text and pictures, but before we can leap into the multimedia-rich universe of the professional web page, we must get a grasp of the basics of HTML.

Note: In this course, I refer to HTML and XHTML, which are two versions of the same markup language. When I talk about HTML, I mean HTML version 4, the current version of the HTML language. XHTML is the newest version of HTML, essentially, HTML version 5; XHTML has much stricter syntax than HTML4, but is otherwise virtually identical. Everything you learn in this class, unless otherwise noted, is both HTML and XHTML standards-compliant.

Main Menu