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Glossary Definition: Hypertext Markup Language

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What is HTML?

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main markup language used in the creation of web pages.

HTML consists of a number of structural tags which can be used to mark up headings, paragraphs, lists, images, links, and other types of content for rendering in web browsers, and for efficient crawling by search engines.

The first Version of HTML was formally published on June 1993 by Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and current director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The current HTML specification is the W3C's HTML 4.01; however, most major web browsers support HTML5, which will assimilate HTML 4 as well as XHTML, with its full specification expected by 2014.


HTML is used solely to structure the content that will appear on a web page. The appearance, or presentation of that content is determined by rules specified in an associated style sheet. The separation of presentation from content is fundamental to web standard guidelines, which help increase the long-term viability of documents published on the Web.

Without CSS, the language used to control layout and appearance of web pages, HTML documents look very similar to a word processor document: block-level elements such as headings, paragraphs, and lists begin on a new line, occupying the full width of their parent elements, whereas inline elements such as emphasized text, images, and links do not.

Markup Example:

The following example of markup consists of four different types of HTML elements—a heading, a paragraph, and an ordered list with its three list elements.

<h1>This is a Heading</h1>
<p>This is a short paragraph</p>
    <li>List item</li>
    <li>List item</li>
    <li>List item</li>

This is a Heading

This is a short paragraph

  1. List item
  2. List item
  3. List item

HTML elements are more than just containers. They are used according to their meaning, or semantic value, rather than how they appear visually on a rendered web page. Semantic HTML adds structure, context, and meaning to web content, making it more accessible to search engines and end-users. Visual presentation is determined via CSS.

See also: HTML5, HTML element, semantic HTML
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