1 What are Web Pages?

1.1 Introduction

This session is designed to help you write a web page. We will cover all of the basic information you need to design and create simple web pages using text, tables, images etc. and how to create links to other pages.

1.2 HTML

Web pages are written in a language called the Hypertext Markup Language or HTML for short. "Hypertext" means text containing links to other text, and "markup" means that the content is marked in some way to indicate its nature and how it should be presented. HTML was developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN as a means of aiding communication between different scientists at different institutions. Rather than uploading an enormous collection of disparate research papers to a central server, the use of hypertext enabled the papers to be cross-referenced to create a web of interleaving information. The information could then be displayed by a HTML viewer, or browser.

HTML is, at least in spirit,the result of a fusion of hypertext with a subset of the more generalised markup language called SGML. The Hypertext Tranfer Protocol enabled HTML documents to be transferred from one computer to another and, combined with the developments in domain naming, led directly to the World-Wide Web.

The original version of HTML had a very loose syntax which aided its adoption by many scientists but eventually started to cause problems with portability between different browsers and the difficulty of extending it. Today HTML has a much more rigourous definition, overseen by the World-Wide-Web Consortium, or W3C for short.

There is a new flavour of mark-up language called Extensible Markup Language or XML, that has given rise to a new flavour of HTML called XHTML. Over the next few years this is expected to become more and more popular, but ordinary HTML documents will continue to be supported.

1.3 HTML as a Descriptive Language

HTML is not a formatting language; making sure a page displays in a way that is clear and aesthetically pleasing is the job of the HTML renderer, or browser. This frees us from worrying about where exactly everything will go on a page, and how it will be displayed, and allows us to concentrate instead on what is important: what should be included in the page, and what it means.

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