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What is HTML and Why Learn It?

HTML is a display language: the most basic computer language for creating web pages. Commands are enclosed in brackets. HTML is about representing data, not carrying out fancy processes. Ultimately, it may not do everything you need, but it will give you the foundation.

You may find HTML helpful if you are a writer, business owner, or just want to share on the web.

There are several reasons to learn the HTML language. It can make you a “crème de la crème” content creator or help you take your first steps toward becoming a programmer. You may find it helpful if you are a writer, business owner, or just want to share on the web. Of course there are a lot of self-publishing tools now for people who don't code at all, but HTML gives even the casual content creator more options. These include putting hyperlinks in the desired format and sizing photos so that they look right on the page. Not surprisingly, there are more job options for a content creator who knows HTML.

If you want to put up web pages from scratch, HTML is your starting place. With it as the basis, you can embed other languages to add functionality or improve design. CSS has typically been incorporated to style and Java or PHP to make pages more dynamic. With the advent of HTML5, there is a dynamic element built in.

The other reason to learn HTML is if you're interested in the software engineering field. Ultimately, you'll want to use several languages. You should get started with HTML as early as you can.

History of HTML

It may be hard to remember a time when there wasn't HTML, but it's not as old as computing. In fact, it's only been at our disposal since the early 90s. It had its foundations in the GTML of the 80s. (GTML was a way of marking texts to show headings, paragraphing, and other features.)

Physicist Tim Berners-Lee developed the first crude version of HTML around 1989. He wanted physicists from all over to be able to pool their resources through cross-referenced (linked) documents. His protocol was HyperText Transfer Protocol (or HTTP as we now know it). In 1992, Hewlett Packard’s Dave Raggett sat down with Berners-Lee to discuss the idea. Raggett soon created HTML+. As others became involved, the number of tagged commands grew. Marc Andreessen, for example, created the image (IMG) tag.

HTML is maintained by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Then came the World Wide Web conference in 1994 with academics from all over exchanging ideas and generating enthusiasm. Later that year an Internet Engineering Task Force set up a working group to haggle HTML standards.

The history of HTML is entangled with the history of web browsers. 1995 saw the advent of Microsoft’s browser. According to materials posted on the W3C site, Microsoft made it big in part by extending HTML features. They aren’t the only ones.

HTML is maintained by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). That means they set standards and work on maintaining compatibility. The W3C Consortium is sponsored by big name companies like IBM and Microsoft. The W3C site is also your go-to place for information about the language.

Learning HTML

There are many places to learn HTML -- you don’t necessarily have to enroll in paid courses. HTML is taught at the high school level in many places. There are also a lot of free resources on the web.

"Free HTML tutorials can be found all over the web. I personally used W3Schools while I was learning and thought it was great!" ~ Adam Sanford, Editor SEI.

W3Schools has well-organized tutorials. Mozilla Developers Network is another good starting point. They’ve got resources (some in-house and some from around the web) organized into two columns: introductory and advanced. Toward the bottom of the page you get a taste of HTML5, again with linked references.

HTML.net offers an introduction to the language and a set of tutorials arranged in order from the most basic concepts. Review is built in. There’s also an active forum – you’ll probably find numerous posts from the previous 24 hours.

There are also a number of organizations using HTML to entice women into the software industry (where it’s generally agreed they’re needed). If you're a young female, you may want to visit Microsoft’s Digigirlz website. Microsoft teaches HTML online free through this site and lets you build a website as you go. If you’re older, you may want to see if there’s a chapter of Girl Develop IT near you.

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