HTML-CSS History

Tim Berners-Lee is generally credited with inventing – or at least designing – Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), starting with a prototype system he designed for CERN researchers to use and share documents in 1980 and a memo he wrote proposing an internet-based hypertext system in 1989. Through 1990 & 91 he continued to develop the concept and the first mention of HTML was a paper by him published on the internet in 1991 in which he described 18 elements which made up the core of the initial HTML.

The first proposal for an international specification for HTML was published by Berners-Lee and Dave Connolly in mid-1993. After it expired in mid-1994, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) created an HTML Working Group which completed “HTML 2.0”, the first specifications of an HTML standard in 1995.

Then came the “browsers wars” where different commercial intrests all attempted to jawbone HTML in different directions at the same time. The authority for HTML was taken over by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1996, and gradually the various commercial interests have begun to comply with W3C standards. At this point even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has become mostly compliant. For a brief description and ranking of the major browsers in use today, see this Find The Best link.

HTML has advanced from version 2.0 in 1965, to a 3.2 version in 1997, 4.0 in 1998 and finally a 4.01 version in 2000, with CSS being at version 2.0. Since then W3C has mostly ran around chasing it’s tail – heading off in several (incompatible) directions at the same time. Finally, in 2011, it appears the the W3C will abandon the side paths they’ve been blazing and concentrate on updating HTML to version 5.0 and CSS to version 3.0. Results due in 2014, hopefully.


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) came along later. The professionals creating the explosion of webpages as the Internet expanded were having a more and more difficult time forcing HTML to do the tricks they needed to keep their webpages interesting and up to date. HTML was originally designed to transfer information from one computer to another, which almost immediately became from one group of computers to another group. And folks almost immediately wanted to style the information… bold some text, make some text italic, change the font, change the color and/or the size of the font, etc. etc. etc. As HTML became more and more complex trying to meet all these desires for style, the answer eventually was to leave the basic information (the content) in HTML and strip out all the styling into a separate area, called a cascading style sheet. The first CSS implemention was with version 3.0 of Internet Explorer in 1996.  For a brief example of the use of HTML and the application of CSS, see this supplemental page.

Our History with HTML

We first learned HTML in 1999. We had moved halfway across the US (from Texas to Arizona), away from family and friends, and wanted to create a home page to keep the home folks up to date. Our ISP provided the space for a home page but minimal instructions on how to do it. Our research into “how to do it” led us to the world of HTML and, finally, to Joe Barta.

Joe Barta is an absolute jewel. I can’t recall any site on the World Wide Web that has been more generally useful or helpful than his site. When we first downloaded and took his HTML tutorial in 1999, it was a real eye opener. It’s still hard to believe that something that well written – written with style, depth and humor – could be free to the public. It is our strongest reccomendation that everyone should go to his website and take his beginner tutorial on HTML-CSS, just for the joy of learning something new, if for no other reason.

With Joe Barta’s guidance you’ll discover that not only is HTML-CSS easy to learn, it’s fun! Even if you have no intention of using it yourself, when you finish Joe’s tutorial you’ll know how and why the Internet works. You never know when that kind of knowledge will come in handy.