What is HTML?

HTML is a computer language developed specifically to build websites; web pages and applications. The websites can then be viewed by any user on the internet. The full meaning of HTML is Hyper Text Mark-up Language. It continuously undergoes updates and evolution to meet the changing demands of increasing internet audiences. W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is an international organisation responsible for the design and maintenance of the language.

Common definitions of HTML

  • HyperText is a process adopted by programmers for users to navigate the web. By clicking on ‘hyperlinks’, which are special texts, users can proceed to a subsequent pages. The term ‘hyper’ indicates that it is not a linear direction. This is because users can visit any page on the internet by clicking the links- the order is not necessarily a straight one.
  • Markup is so called because the HTML tags mark the text in a distinguishable manner. For instance, a particular text can be italicised to indicate further navigation.
  • HTML is a language because it has both a code-word and syntax- much like any typical language.

How does it work?

HTML comprises a series of short codes keyed into a text-file by a website author. The text is eventually saved as a html file and can be viewed through browsers such as Chrome or Firefox. The browser reads the file and decodes the text into a visible format for web users to read and understand. This renders the page in the way the author originally developed it to be seen.

Writing a HTML script requires using tags the right way to create a vision. Programmers can use anything from a basic text-editor to a sophisticated graphics editor to write HTML pages.

What are the tags used for?

The tags distinguish regular text from HTML code. They are popularly known as texts written with angle brackets like this <tags>. They allow multimedia such as images, tables to be visible by telling the browser what should be rendered on the page. There are different tags, and each one executes a different function. While the tags themselves are not visible when the page is opened, their effects are. The most basic tags have no more function than formatting.

A good example is:

<i> These words will be italicised </i>, and these will not.

In the above example, the <i> tags are wrapped around some text, and they automatically italicise the text contained within. These words will then be italicised when viewed through a regular web browser. Tags are easy to write, and are among the first things a beginner programmer learns when starting HTML.

Elements of HTML

HTML documents denote a constitution of HTML elements. These are often designated in the document by HTML tags written in angle brackets. The start tag may also comprise other information such as:

  • Identifiers for segments within the documents
  • Identifiers used to connect style information to the document presentation
  • Tags like <img> for embedding images, and referencing the image resource

Some elements like a line break <br>, do not allow any form of embedded content, the have to be either text or additional tags. These require only one empty tag (quite like a start tag) and do not utilise an end tag.

Many tags are optional, especially the closing end tag for the popularly used paragraph element <p>.  A HTML browser or similar agent can deduce the closure for an element, simply from the context and structural guidelines defined by its HTML standards. The rules are multifaceted and not all of them are understood by most HTML programmers.

The structure of a HTML element

The general structure of a HTML element is listed as:

<tag attribute = “value1” attribute2 = “value2”>’ ‘content’ ‘</tag>.

Some programmers refer to some HTML elements as empty elements. These element, as the name implies, may hold no content within. For example, the inline <img> tag or the <br> tag. A HTML is name is the same as that utilised in its tags. It is important to take into account that the end tag’s name is heralded by a slash symbol, “/”, and for empty elements, the end tag is neither necessary nor permitted. Where attributes are omitted, the default values are used in the respective cases.

Character and entity references

As at the time of version 4.0. HTML describes a set of 1.114,050 numeric character references and 252 character entity references. Both features allow separate characters to be written through simple markup, instead of literally. A literal character and its corresponding markup are though equal and are rendered in the same way.

The ability to “release” characters this way allows characters such as < and & (when coded as &It; and &amp; respectively) to be translated as character data, instead of markup. For example, a plain < often signifies the beginning of a tag, and & usually signifies the beginning of a numeric character reference or character entity reference.

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