195: HTML: Is This Programming?

You can use HTML to present information or build web pages.

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language which is a bit unfortunate because it gives the impression that this is a programming language. It’s not. The most important part of the name is markup. To me, it’s even more important than hypertext which provides a way for one HTML document to refer to another HTML document or even to another location in the same HTML document. You can create HTML that has no links or references to anywhere else. But you can’t create HTML without markup.

Before we get too far, though, let’s think about how we like to organize text and information. I’ll explain more details about HTML in another episode.
When writing text, we normally want it to be easy to read. We want it well organized. And there should be pictures and diagrams, maps and charts, columns and numbered or bulleted lists, doodles and colors. And there should be large and small text, special characters and symbols, backgrounds, borders, and shading, tables of contents and indexes, mathematical formulas and artwork, and more.

You get the idea. Making something that’s easy to read involves a lot more than just organizing our thoughts. Books and magazines do this and the work isn’t done when an author finishes a manuscript, or a reporter completes an interview, or a scientist writes about some discovery.

The possibilities are even more elaborate with electronic media. Now we can include sound and video, animations and expanding sections, tabs to switch pages, forms to let readers type in their own information, reformatting for different sizes, detecting and responding to different devices and phones, updating and gathering new and updated information, and even more.

We need some way to organize all this extra information. Some way to mix the text you want with how that text will be displayed as well as all the other things that can be included. Even something as simple as making a word bold needs to be specified.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about how HTML relates to the Internet and some history about Tim Berners-Lee who created HTML and the World Wide Web.

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