HTML (an acronym for HyperText Markup Language) is a markup language used to describe the look and feel of a web page. HTML files are simply text files that usually contain a mixture of content and formatting information. They can be generated by any text editor through a process of hand coding, or through WYSIWYG editors such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver or Microsoft's Frontpage. Key features of the language include the ability to link to other pages through hyperlinks or to call external resources such as image files or other types of multimedia.

Conceptually, HTML has been a long time in coming, with proposals to build a dynamic linked system of computerized information dating to 1945. However, HTML is a relatively recent phenomenah, owing its origins to research done at the CERN, a high energy physics research facility in Geneva. Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Caillau, both scientists at CERN, were interested in creating a new way to share their research. The result was HTML and the HTTP protocol that forms the basis for all data transfered on the web.

HTML is basically a simplified version of an older and more complex markup language called SGML. Ironically, HTML was originally concieved as a language for describing information rather than formatting it. However the graphical nature of the web browser changed the ultimate application of the language, and data description has largely become the domain of databases and XML, another SGML derived language. Instead HTML provides the presentation layer for most web sites and web applications.

Currently HTML is managed by the W3 Consortium (or W3C), a non-profit standards organization. XHTML, which is basically HTML described as a subset of XML is the Consortium's most recent attempt to improve the languages.

HTML is excellent at what it does. Because of its open standards, capacity to be electronically indexed, and lack of special software requirements for development, it remains the only viable tool for creating information based web sites. While some developers have experimented with creating web sites in alternative technologies such as Macromedia's Flash or the still experimental SVG, HTML promises to remain the tool of choice for many years to come.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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