What is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. To understand what this means, we should break the term into two parts: HyperText and Markup Language.

Let's start with Markup Language. What does that mean? A markup language is a standard used to define the meaning or importance of various items. These items then inherit properties which are inherent to that definition. Confused yet?

Here's a useful analogy. Many poeple use 'High-Lighters' to highlight specific items of interest in their text-books. This is a rudimentary markup language. Particularly industrious poeple my use several markers of differing colours. For example, in a history textbook, names of poeple might be highlighted in yellow, while dates of important events might be highlighted in green and important vocabulary items might be highlighted in pink. This is a perfect example of a Markup Language. The colour of the pen represents the type of data, and its logical importance.

Lets move on to the first part of the term: Hyper comes from a Greek word meaning beside. This indicates that HTML is inserted into a document beside regular text. Various codes that denote the meaning of the text are inserted into the text, but are not seen by the client (the person looking at your web page with a web browser).

How does it work?

HTML is essentially a series of elements that are inserted into a text document. The Web Browser (such as Netscape, or Internet Explorer) interprets these elements, and changes the look of the text accordingly. Elements describe content in an HTML document. For example, the P element denotes a paragraph while the EM element denotes emphasized content.

There are three parts to an element: the opening tag, the content, and the closing tag. A tag is a special markup command that is inserted into the text. A tag is delineated by angle brackets: "<" and ">".

So, the opening tag of the paragraph element looks like this: "<p>". The closing tag is almost identical, except that it has a "/ immediately following the "<", so it looks like this: "</p>"

The whole paragraph element looks like this: <p>This is the content.</p>

Many elements utilise attributes. An attribute is a way of further specifying information about the specific element. Below is an example that shows the proper syntax for using an attribute: <tag attribute="somevalue">This is the content.</tag>


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