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What is HTML? How It Works and Its History [2024 Edition]

It’s been 33 years since HTML (HyperText Markup Language) was first launched by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at Switzerland’s CERN research organization

To know how old it is, the earliest versions of HTML had 18 HTML tags; now, there are around 142 HTML tags; although not all of them are supported by modern browsers, they do work wonders.

HTML is the second most popular language used among developers and designers, with more than 52% of users using it. 

Currently, HTML is used by 95.7% of all websites, while HTML5 is being used by 92.6% of all websites. That shows how powerful it has become now; every popular site you know uses HTML or HTML5 on their site.

Now let’s first uncover the HTML history. Then we’ll explore how HTML works and functions.

History of HTML

In the 1990s, the Internet exploded in popularity as personal computers became more affordable and accessible. 

Tim Berners-Lee - HTML

The World Wide Web, created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, simplified information sharing by introducing web pages built with HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Berners-Lee himself invented HTML as the foundation for these pages.

The first website launched in 1991, and the Internet quickly became a global phenomenon, transforming how we communicate, research, shop, and even find entertainment. Since HTML’s debut, numerous versions have emerged. In the late 1990s, HTML 4.01 became widely used and officially standardized in December 1999.

Around the same time, a new approach called XHTML arose. Essentially, XHTML was a reworking of HTML using XML, a technology for creating other markup languages like Graphics Markup Language (GML) and Math Markup Language (MathML). One advantage of XML is its ability to share content across different applications easily.

With its stricter rules based on XML’s focus on interoperability, XHTML became an official standard in 2000. For many years, most web pages relied on either HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0.

However, the future belongs to HTML5, a new version currently being developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and WHATWG  (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group). Although technically a draft in 2011, HTML5’s strong browser and device support propelled it towards becoming the new standard. This is why HTML5 takes center stage in this course.

This revised version clarifies key points, simplifies technical terms where possible, and provides context for specialized elements like W3C and WHATWG. It also prioritizes the rise of HTML5 while acknowledging future possibilities in web technology.

The Growth Of HTML

Each year represents the timeline of HTML with its exponential growth.

  • 1991: Tim Berners-Lee invents HTML 1.0.
  • 1993: HTML 1.0 was released, but only a few developers are creating HTML websites at this time.
  • 1995: HTML 2.0 is published, incorporating features from HTML 1.0 and introducing new ones. It remains the standard markup language for website design until 1997.
  • 1997: HTML 3.0 is introduced by Dave Raggett, offering improvements and powerful characteristics for web admins. However, the added features result in slower browser performance, hindering further advancements.
  • 1999: HTML 4.0 is widely adopted and successful.
  • 2012: HTML 4.01 is published.
  • 2014: HTML 5.0 was released globally and is considered an extended version of HTML 4.01. It has become widely used, marking a significant evolution in web technology.

How HTML Works?

HTML functions by instructing the Internet browser on how to present a webpage. The process involves the use of basic text editors, HTML elements, tags, and attributes.

Creating HTML Documents:

  • Authors use a basic text editor (e.g., TextEdit for Mac) to craft HTML documents.
  • These documents are filled with HTML elements using specific HTML tags.

HTML Tags:

  • HTML tags define how text, images, or other elements should appear on a webpage.
  • Tags are employed to achieve various styles, such as making text big, small, bold, italicized, or in bullet point form.

HTML Elements:

  • An HTML element comprises an opening tag, a character, content, and a closing tag.
  • Some elements, like <img>, are empty and lack a closing tag but may include a source or link to embed content like images.

HTML Attributes:

  • Tags can have attributes placed in the opening tag, conveying additional information about the element.
  • Attributes include style, IDs, and classes, taking values for styling, and facilitating manipulation with JavaScript.

HTML Page Anatomy 

<!DOCTYPE html>



    <meta charset=”UTF-8″ />

    <meta http-equiv=”X-UA-Compatible” content=”IE=edge” />

    <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″ />

    <title> HTML</title>



    <!–Page content such as text and images goes in here–>



HTML Page Anatomy Mini-Explanation

An HTML page consists of several essential components:

Document Type Declaration (<!DOCTYPE html>):

  • Specifies the HTML version in use, helping browsers render the page correctly.

HTML (<html>):

  • Encloses the entire HTML document and serves as the root element.

Head (<head>):

  • Contains metadata about the document, such as character set, viewport settings, and the page title.

Meta Tags (<meta>):

  • Provides information like character set, compatibility settings, and viewport details for responsive design.

Title (<title>):

  • Defines the title of the HTML document displayed on the browser tab.

Body (<body>):

  • Encloses the actual content of the HTML document, such as text, images, links, and other elements.


HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, plays a pivotal role in shaping the structure and presentation of content on the World Wide Web. As we navigate 2024, understanding HTML remains fundamental for anyone involved in web development or content creation. 

Its evolution, marked by different versions and advancements, reflects the dynamic nature of the Internet. From its inception by Tim Berners-Lee in the early ’90s to the globally adopted HTML5 in recent years, HTML has been a key enabler of the online experience. Learning how HTML works, from the use of tags and elements to the incorporation of attributes, empowers individuals to craft engaging and accessible web content.


How does HTML work?

HTML works by instructing Internet browsers on how to present a webpage. Authors use HTML elements, tags, and attributes to create documents that define the structure and appearance of content.

What is the history of HTML in Short?

HTML’s history dates back to 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML 1.0. Subsequent versions, such as HTML 2.0, HTML 3.0, and HTML 4.0, introduced new features and improvements. HTML5, released in 2014, is the latest globally used version.

What are HTML tags, elements, and attributes?

HTML tags are codes used to define elements on a webpage. Opening and closing tags with material in between makeup elements. Attributes, placed in the opening tag, provide additional information about elements.

How is a basic HTML page structured?

A basic HTML page includes a doctype declaration, opening and closing <html> tags, a <head> section for metadata, and a <body> section for the main content. Attributes like charset, http-equiv, and viewport enhance the document.  As HTML continues to shape the digital landscape, staying informed about its principles and best practices is essential for effective web development and content creation in 2024.

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