HTML (abbreviation of Hypertext Markup Language) is a markup language used to create web pages. It's an application of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language).


1969: First predecessor - IBM Generalized Markup Language (GML)

In the late sixties, Charles Goldfarb, Edward Mosher, and Raymond Lorie started developing it in IBM and named it after their surnames - GML.

:h1.Does this look somehow familiar? not only has paragraphs
:li.But also stuff you maybe wouldn't expect - lists - this is the first item of an ordered list
:li.And this is the second item   
:p.It can't track you yet through the canvas fingerprinting, though

1978: Start of a project which later became the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)

In 1978, in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) a committee whose members were Charles Card, Norman Scharpf and Charles Goldfarb started a project that later became the Standard Generalized Markup Language - SGML.

As the name suggests, SGML evolved from GML.

1980: First working draft of SGML

In 1980, Goldfarb & his team published the first working draft of SGML.

1986: SGML became an ISO standard

On Oct 22, 1986, after adoption by the Office of Official Publications of the European Community, the final version was published as an ISO 8879:1986.

1989: Tim Berners-Lee invents HTML, along with the web

Next Computer

This NeXT machine was used by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 to run the first web server.

Credit: CERN

In March 1889, Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at Swiss-based CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world's best-known centers for scientific research), submitted a proposal of what would later become the web. His boss, Mike Sendall, seemed to like it somehow, wrote a “Vague but exciting” note on the doc, and let him continue.

In 1990, Tim used one of Steve Jobs' early products, a NeXT computer, as a first web server; the web-server software he wrote (along with Ari Luotonen and Henrik Frystyk Nielsen) in C was called CERN httpd

Using the technology, they created the first website, which you can browse on the original address (restored in 2013).

The HTML was originally conceived to meet the need sharing of information between universities and institutions around the world.

HTML evolved from SGML, it was a SGML subset until HTML 5.

1992: HTML Tags

Near the end of 1991, CERN published an HTML Tags document.

This is not really a spec, rather just a list of 18 HTML tags.

<H1>this is finally somehow real HTML</H1>
    Now you can utilize a <A NAME=0 HREF=>hyperlink</A>.

1993: Draft of HTML 1.1

In June 1993, IIIR Working Group (Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Connolly) published a draft v1.1 of HTML (so perhaps we may call it HTML 1.1).

<!-- Now it has most of what a propper HTML doc should have. -->
<TITLE>Title is enclosed in HEAD</TITLE>
            Was the browser mostly used to read such versions of HTML.

1993: Draft of HTML 1.2

Still in June 1993, IIIR Working Group also published a draft of HTML 1.2

1995: HTML 2.0

Valid HTML 2.0 tag

On November 24, 1995, the Network Working Group, published HTML 2.0 as an RFC 1866.

HTML 2.0 is the first real HTML standard, it was given the 2.0 version to distinguish it from the previous informal versions and drafts.

The 2.0 version itself still lacks many important HTML capabilities (file upload, tables, client-side image maps, and internationalization), which were added as supplemental RFCs to the 2.0 version of the spec.

1996: Initial Flash version

On April 10, 2010, FutureWave Software released FutureSplash Animator, a plugin which was later renamed to Macromedia Flash and then to Adobe Flash.

1997: HTML 3.2

Valid HTML 3.2 tag

On January 14, 1997, W3C published HTML 3.2 as a Recommendation.

In the golden era of Netscape Navigator & Communicator, HTML found its way to masses and was used to run services such as AltaVista, Yahoo, or Amazon

<TITLE>Not really clear code yet</TITLE>
        Although there was already CSS, Netscape 3, the most popular browser those days, didn"t support it.
        When you wanted to somehow <FONT color="#ff0000" face="Arial">format a text, you had to use the FONT tag</FONT>.

1997: HTML 4.0

Valid HTML 4.0 tag

On December 18, 1997, W3C published HTML 4.0 as a Recommendation.

IE4 is going to take over Netscape, DOM along with JavaScript opens a path to client-side functionality - at first, we could see pop-up menus and expandable tree navigation.

1998: XHTML Draft

On December 5, 1998, W3C published a Working Draft of XHTML.

The motivation behind was to create a strict standard, an XML based reformulation of HTML. A doc, which can be validated, parsed, extended with namespaces, and generally, used like any other XML document.

1999: HTML 4.01

Valid HTML 4.01 tag

On December 24, 1999, W3C published HTML 4.01 as a Recommendation.

Just a few minor corrections of HTML 4.0.

2000: XHTML 1.0

Valid XHTML 1.0 tag

On January 26, 2000, W3C published XHTML 1.0 as a Recommendation.

The language is based on HTML 4.01, on first sight, you wouldn't even notice it's something else.

Notable differences include, though:

  • XHTML is case sensitive, while HTML isn't
  • XHTML must have all tags closed, e.g., you have to use <br/>, while in HTML <br> is OK.
  • In XHTML, all the attributes must have qoute-enclosed values, you have to use <input type="radiobutton" selected="selected">, while in HTML, <input type="radiobutton" selected> is OK.

As of June 10, 2019, XHTML 1.0 is still used on the W3C website.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN""">
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"/>
<h1>Is this XML? Or HTML?</h1>
            It is an XHTML,
            a valid XML

2000: ISO HTML (ISO/IEC 15445:2000)

ISO symbol

In May 2000, ISO HTML, based on HTML 4.01 Strict, was published as ISO/IEC 15445:2000

HTML was internationally standardized for the first time, until now (as of July 2019) though, the case remained also the last one.

2001: XHTML™ 1.1

Valid XHTML 1.1 tag

On May 31, 2001, W3C published XHTML 1.1 as a Recommendation.

Introduces XHTML Modularization, a way to extend a doc with modules based on DTD's, XML schema and Relax NG

2008: First Public Draft of HTML5 & XHTML5

On January 22, 2008, W3C published the First Public Draft of HTML5 & XHTML5.

2010: Apple will no longer support Flash

In April 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Flash will no longer be supported on Apple devices. That meant - it was getting more and more clear the future of web apps was in HTML5!

2012: Candidate Recommendation of HTML5 & XHTML5

On December 17, 2012, W3C published a Candidate Recommendation of HTML5.

Now HTML5 makes headlines and everyone is switching to it.

2014: HTML5 & XHTML5

HTML 5 logo

On October 28, 2014, W3C published HTML5 as a Recommendation.

Now HTML is an environment for running complex apps, rather than a simple markup language it used to be. It includes a huge pack of new features, like:

  • multimedia support through <video>, <audio> tags
  • graphics support through the he <canvas> tag and SVG (inline or in the <svg> tag)
  • structural elements such as <section>, <article>, <header>, <footer>, etc…
  • New APIs like WebStorage, WebMessaging, WebRTC, etc…

Developers started to leverage those features instead of plugins like Adobe Flash or less known Microsoft's Silverlight and it led to the gradual abandonment of plugin support by the browser manufacturers

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en-US">
<title>Is XHTML out of fashion, nowadays?</title>
        Although HTML5 spec includes XHTML as well, not so restricted markup &hellip;<br>seems to be back.

2016: HTML 5.1

On November 1, 2016, W3C published HTML 5.1 as a Recommendation.

As the version number suggests, there are few minor improvements:

  • context menus
  • <details> element
  • <summary> element
  • more input types like month, week, and datetime-local.
  • responsive images (without CSS)

2016: Working Draft of HTML & XHTML 5.2

On August 18, 2016, W3C published the First Public Working Draft of HTML 5.2.

2017: HTML & XHTML 5.2

On December 14, 2017, W3C published HTML 5.2 as a Recommendation.

New features include:

2017: Working Draft of HTML & XHTML 5.3

On the same day, December 14, 2017, W3C also published the First Public Working Draft of HTML 5.3.