How about a little history?
Long, long, ago ("in a galaxay far away?")... well around 1990, the World Wide Web was a text-based system based upon the HyperText MarkUp Language. The tags and interpretation were all built upon standards (HTML 1.0) set by an international committee. This was the key to the "web" becoming "world wide" beacuse by following the standards, the information was completely independent of the computer from which it was viewed.
Even when NCSA Mosaic burst upon the scene in 1993 as the first graphical web browser, the standards were followed to the letter, which at that time were updated as HTML 2.0.
The web got to be popular.
Other programmers began to build web browsers that offered the same functionality as Mosaic (because they supported all of the HTML features contained within the international standards). A group that included the original developer of Mosaic formed a new company - it's mascot was "Mozilla", ("Mosaic" + "Godzilla?") with a brnad new web browser known as NetScape.
NetScape was faster than the NCSA Mosaic. But it grew in popularity because it contained functionalities that included all of HTML 2.0 PLUS more tags for things that you could not do in HTML 2.0. These "extensions" or "enhancements" have caused (and still cause) a great deal of arguments between HTML purists and those that like the features that NetScape added.
The Mozilla NetScape was immensely popular and quickly grabbed 3/4 of the web-browser pie. Now, in HTML, you could include colored backgrounds to your pages, formatted tables of text, text that wrapped around the side of images, and more. You began to see web pages that said, "This page optimized for NetScape". Other browsers began to include support for the NetScape "HTML 2.0+" features. As the major online services opened up to the web, the browser market got even more crowded (and noisy).
The international commision was faced with a dilemma, as the market was largely demanding these "non-standard" tags to become part of HTML. As the rules for HTML 3.0 were being developed, they began to include most (but not all) of the tags NetScape had introduced. The standards process seemed to move to slowly for many people.
And the battle grew bigger into 1996 when Microsoft introduced their own special HTML tags. Will HTML become more Babel-like? For more information about the HTML battle, we refer you to Andy King's HTML 3.0 and NetScape
So what does this mean for you? Well, most importantly as you develop web pages, you have to ask if you know what browser your readers will be using. Perhaps you are a teacher in one school or an information department in a company that is sure all of their users will be using a particular browser. Then you be assured if you use browser-specific tags there will be no problem.
More commonly, however, you "publishing" web pages from an Internet server and have no idea what browser is being used. You can add special warnings to your page. You can stick closer to the standards that are most widely supported on all web browsers. Even if you do use special tags, there are usually ways to have an alternative that will not cause havoc for users of other browsers.
Most importantly... do not become fixated on how the page looks on just your own computer! Your readers may have different browsers, different fonts, different text color preferences, different monitor sizes-- all of which may cause the display to vary in size, layout or appearance from how it looks on your computer. If you can try out your web pages on different computers, stretch and shrink the browser window, switch the standard fonts.
Fortunately, the orginal design for HTML has a very open and forgiving set of rules- if a browser encounters a tag it does not know how to deal with or display, it simply ignores anything between the starting and ending tags. For example, let's say my browser supports the <drip>...</drip> tag (all text inside appears normal and then slowly "drips" toward the bottom of the page- I MADE THIS UP!). If your browser doesn't support this tag it just skips over it completely, rather than bombing or presenting an error message.
It's a brilliant concept, isn't it?
As we go on into these more advanced lessons, the instructions will get a bit longer and more complicated. But you've gotten this far ok!
The Internet Connection at MCLI is
Alan Levine --}
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