Understanding where we’ve been provides useful context for where we are going, so let’s kick this off with a quick history lesson. We’ll start at the very beginning. A “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” history of HTML The story of HTML, from Tim Berners-Lee’s initial draft in 1991 to the HTML5 standard in development today, is both fascinating and tumultuous.
Early versions of HTML (HTML+ in 1994 and HTML 2.0 in 1995) built on Tim’s early work with the intent of making it a viable publishing option. But when the World Wide Web (as it was adorably called back in the day) took the world by storm, browser developers, most notably Mosaic Netscape and later Microsoft Internet Explorer, didn’t wait for any stinkin’ standards.
They gave the people what they wanted by creating a slew of browser-specific elements for improving the look of pages on their respective browsers. This divisive one-upping is what has come to be known as the Browser Wars.
As a result, it became common in the late 1990s to create two separate versions of a site that targeted each of the Big Two browsers. In 1996, the newly formed W3C put a stake in the ground and released its first Recommendation: HTML 3.2. It is a snapshot of all the HTML elements in common use at the time, and includes many presentational extensions to HTML that were the result of the Netscape/IE feud and the lack of a style sheet alternative.
HTML 4.0 (1998) and HTML 4.01 (the slight revision that superseded it in 1999) aimed to get HTML back on track by emphasizing the separation of structure and presentation and improving accessibility. All matters of presentation were handed over to the newly minted Cascading Style Sheets standard that was gaining support.