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HTML is the lingua franca of the web. That is, it's the language that makes it possible for various computers to communicate with each other. These computers may be on different networks, in different countries, different platforms, different operating systems, desktops, mobiles, tablets, et cetera. HTML is the common tongue. It's what makes all of this possible. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Hypertext refers to the ability to create links to other pages and other web resources. Markup means that it's used for creating pages of formatted text along with images and other resources embedded in the page.
HTML was originally based on older markup language called SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Language. The most recent versions of HTML are no longer tied to SGML. The ability to create hyperlinks is a fundamental capability in HTML. This is what makes the web a web. Links can be used for many purposes and while they were revolutionary when Tim Berners-Lee created HTML in the early 1990s, today this functionality is largely taken for granted, but without it we would have no web and the Internet would likely still be a geeky thing that most people would have never heard of.
This is actually what makes HTML special and why it's still in wide use 20 years later. There are several versions of HTML in common use. The good news is all of the modern browsers support all versions of HTML. In fact, they go to a great deal of trouble to do so. Legacy HTML support is usually referred to as quirks mode and will support virtually anything that looks like HTML, but keep in mind quirks mode will result in pages that render differently on different browsers.
So for consistent results you will want to use good clean and consistent syntax and the most current version of HTML that is supported by your target platforms. HTML 2.0 was ratified in 1995. It was the first standardized version of HTML and was designed to codify existing practice. It was released as an Internet RFC and numbered 2854. HTML 3.2 was the first version of HTML to be ratified by the World Wide Web Consortium or the W3C. Like HTML 2, it was designed to formalize existing best practice.
It was ratified in 1997. HTML 4.1 was released the next year to clean up some issues with 4.0 and HTML 4.01 is as of the time of this recording the latest standard version of HTML. 14 years after the ratification HTML 4 HTML5 is still a work in progress. Well, it's not really that simple. When the W3C voted to stop working on new versions of HTML in 2004, the Mozilla foundation and Opera software formed a new group called WHATWG or The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group to work on a new standard version of HTML.
Meanwhile the W3C was working on XHTML 2.0 intended to drive web development into a more standards compliant world. The web development community did not respond well to this effort and the W3C dropped XHTML 2 in 2009 and began working with the WHATWG on HTML5 instead. HTML5 is actually a group of related technologies of which HTML is just one part. These technologies include a number of DOM or Document Object model interfaces.
This is the part of the specifications that the WHATWG and W3C agree on and it is supported by the latest versions of all the major browsers on both desktops and mobile devices.
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