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The Evolution of HTML

Updated on August 23, 2016


HyperText Markup Language abbreviated to HTML, is the coding standard that makes up the basis of web design and is the foundation of any website. Since its creation in 1991 HTML had undergone a great and frequent evolution from 1.0 to today's standard of 5.0. Over these past 25 years web developers and computer hobbyist have built the web from the ground up and HTML was and is a huge part of that.

HTML 1.0

The first standard of HTML was published in 1991 by a physicist Tim Berners-Lee under the name of ‘HTML Tags’. This first standard, especially when compared to today's HTML, was extremely limited. Only 18 elements comprised its simple design. In comparison HTML 5.0 consists of 116 elements.

Html 2.0

This publication of HTML came about in 1995 and consisted of everything from 1.0 with a few new elements. HTML 2.0 was the standard that began to define HTML and put it on the radar. The standard was still relatively simple when compared to today's HTML but still shaped much of what web design means.


HTML 3.0 was a relatively uneventful publication. It made HTML much more powerful and allowed web design to go somewhere it never had before but it was incredibly slow and limited by popular browsers such as Netscape. With 3.0 HTML developers realized that future publications would require module loading so that pages could load in stages and therefore faster. HTML 3.2 was significant because it was the first HTML update published as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard. The W3C was founded and is still led by Tim Berners-Lee and its purpose is to create standards for the development of websites and leading the internet to its full potential. W3C became the leader in web development standards and HTML became widely used.

Html 4.0

HTML 4.0 was born at the end of 1997 and it refined HTML. The standard was more struck- deprecated elements were no longer allowed. Mostly 4.0 fixed the problems of 3.0 which was mostly considered a failure. It cut our harmful tags and introduced compatibility with cascading style sheets or CSS. The introduction of CSS made HTML a thousand times more versatile, customizable, and easier to use. Another improvement with HTML 4.0 was that it was now supported by Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Shortly after it was updated to HTML 4.1 and became the official standard.

Html 5.0

HTML 5.0 is the latest standard for HTML. It was published by W3C in 2014 buts its development is more complicated than that. Around 2008 many of the people who had previously controlled HTML standards were caught up in updating HTML 4.0 and creating XHTML 2.0. At this time a group of web developers decided that W3C and their projects were getting a little too dull and restrictive so they created Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) and started work on their own HTMl standard. When the W3C decided that XHTML 2.0 was a bust they turned their attention towards HTML 5.0 which was being developed by WHATWG. The two groups had different visions on what they wanted HTML 5.0 to become. WHATWG wanted to create a living standard in which HTML is never complete and is constantly evolving. The two split to develop separately and W3C’s HTML 5.0 became the standard.


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