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In 1986, a new ISO standard (ISO 8879) was released which aimed to make platform and display differences irrelevant to the delivery and rendering of documents. This standard detailed the language called the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML.)
Tim Berners-Lee and
The Genesis of the WWW
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee created a proposal for a hypertext document system to be used within the CERN community. Although based in Switzerland, CERN members were scattered throughout the globe and project turnover was often high. Collaboration over long distances, getting new project members quickly up to speed and preservation of information in the face of frequent member turnover were the driving factors in the development of the proposed system. This system, which Berners-Lee later named "The World-Wide Web" in October of 1990, outlined several important components necessary to realize the vision and which, in a nutshell, defines the nature of the WWW today:
Berners-Lee developed and defined the HTML language, which was created and defined using SGML, during the development cycle for the first Web browser/editor from October to December 1990. The first version of the browser initially ran only on the NeXT platform and was only processing text files, but it was a start. Berners-Lee later put the code and specifications for the project (including HTML) on the Internet in the summer of 1991. During the next few years the system introduced by Berners-Lee caught on in the Internet community - and the 'web' of documents available was steadily growing. A common library of code was available to programmers to easily create the needed capabilities to access web documents. Browsers quickly became available for a wide variety of platforms. As the number of implementations grew, the variety did also. The HTML language originally specified by Berners-Lee had developed and extended far beyond its initial form and no real standard had yet been developed. For a further discussion of how the first HTML standard finally developed, please see the HTML 2.0 history page.
What HTML is today
The standards for HTML are currently being developed by a worldwide industry consortium known as the W3C. This work was carried out previously by the IETF. The W3C places several requirements on HTML:
"The document format should be, as far as practical, backwards compatible with existing HTML documents. It should support both paged and scrolling layout models...A simple, scaleable document format that can be used for information exchange on virtually any platform."The W3C goes on to list the proposed range of these platforms, which include:
In hindsight, the following quote by Berners-Lee from the original CERN proposal shows how far things have progressed in less than a decade:
"In 10 years, there may be many commercial solutions to the problems above, while today we need something to allow us to continue."The WWW and HTML solutions that Berners-Lee created have evolved into that solution. HTML is now becoming the primary document format of choice not only on the Web, but also elsewhere in both personal and commercial uses. Despite its current limitations, HTML has become the most popular and widely used rich text format ever.