Network: Web design
What's new with HTML 4.0? Well, to be honest, almost nothing. Nothing, that is, that you probably haven't already been using to design Web pages for months or years.
Tuesday 20 January 1998
HTML was originally conceived by scientists to display technical research and papers and share them with other researchers around the world. Kind of a universal word processing document but with little of the control that designers demand.
Part of the problem is that HTML itself is a moving target. There is the "official" HTML as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3.org), and then there are the Netscape and Microsoft versions, euphemistically referred to as "extensions" to HTML. These extensions, created by the two big browser makers, are what have given HTML its design power in the past. But these different versions are either incompatible or work differently, depending on the browser, the platform, and, apparently, the phase of Mars's largest moon.
This is where HTML 4.0 comes in to the picture. Released a little over a month ago, it sets forth the new official version of HTML. The good news is that both browser manufacturers have agreed, at least in principle, to use this new specification when constructing their next generation (5.0) of browsers.
What's new with HTML 4.0? Well, to be honest, almost nothing. Nothing, that is, that you probably haven't already been using to design Web pages with for months or years. In fact, the only unfamiliar tags you will find are mostly for dealing with grouping different types of data together (form, table, list) and providing disabled and international access to Web content, which is, although important, of arguable use to designers. Oh, and the new designation for hypertext references is URI (Universal Resource Identifier) as opposed to the more specific term URL, which is just for Web addresses.
So why the 4.0 designation? Well, besides the fact that the computer industry just loves new numeric designations, HTML 4.0 finally incorporates and standardises many of those great extensions that we've all been using for years. Things like frames, inline-frames, embedded objects and the tag.
Many of the design-related HTML tags, if not abandoned by the new standard, are slated to be made redundant. But there is a method to this madness. The HTML spec now also includes Cascading Style Sheets, a standard that had previously been separate, for controlling the appearance of the content which is laid out using HTML. If you don't know about Cascading Style Sheets, drop whatever you are doing - after finishing this article - and go to the Web Design Group's CSS reference (http://www.htmlhelp. com/reference/css) to find out what's going on.
The W3's thinking is this: style sheets should be used to "relieve HTML of the responsibilities of presentation". Translation: "Don't bug us with requests for HTML tags to do layout, use style sheets instead."
And that's probably a good idea. It means that anybody can use HTML tags regardless of whether they are Jo Web Designer or not. But Jo can reassign standard HTML tags to do whatever she wants them to do.
So this all means that you can use CSS, frames and embedded objects safe in the knowledge that it's all official now. Right? Well, almost. The problem this time is that the standard has leap-frogged the current browsers, and neither Navigator nor Explorer actually implement HTML code in their browsers exactly as standardised by the W3.
Fortunately for Microsoft, due to lucky timing, Internet Explorer is closest to full HTML 4.0 compatibility. The HTML 4.0 committee was still deciding whether to have cream-filled or jam-filled doughnuts for breakfast when Navigator 4.0 was released early last spring. But the final roughs of the report were released when Explorer 4.0 hit the market last fall. So the minds in Redmond were able to tweak their code to make it fall in line. The thing is that, despite Bill Gates's best efforts, a lot of us still use Navigator. So, if you want to stay cross-browser compatible, you will have to hold your breath a bit longer before embracing HTML 4.0.
The official HTML 4.0 spec can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40- 971218. Comments, questions, and gripes about this column should be sent to: email@example.com
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'