2What is HTML?

It's tough to deal with a technology unless you understand its terminology - and so it is with the question: What is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language — the language in which web pages are written.

hypertext: text with a "link" to another document; clicking on the link pulls up that document. Also called a "hyperlink".

markup: code added to text that specifies placement and style of text, where images are to be displayed, etc.

language: a set of symbols which are instructions to a computer to do something.

So HyperText Markup Language is:

  • a predetermined set of instructions (or "codes")
  • which you plug into your text
  • to make them display as web pages and look and act as you wish

Similar to marking up a document with a pen, these HTML "markup" codes can be added to a page of text, and — presto! — you'd have a web page. The all-text, non-browser view is called the "source code".

What are Tags?

Before we get started, we should clarify the term tags. Tags are pieces of HTML code.

HTML code — the individual markup specifications — is surrounded by angle brackets: < >
For instance, to make a word, sentence or paragraph bold, we simply add tags:


which will be displayed by a browser like this:


These angle brackets and the markup inside them are called "tags".

• The <b> turns the bolding on.
• The </b> turns the original tag "off" and is called a "closing tag".

Note re case of tags: HTML tags can be written in UPPER or lower case: <B> or <b>. However, as newer Web specifications have called for lower case, it's best to be prepared than to have to change code.

:: Nesting Tags

"Nesting" means putting one set of tags inside another. For instance, there is an italics tag: <i> and its closing tag, </i>. If you want to make a word bold and italicized, you "nest" the tags ... but close each set of tags in the inverse order that it was opened:

Correctly nested tags:




Saving Web Pages

Web pages — individual pages in a website — should be saved with either the .html or .htm extension:

page.html or page.htm

Furthermore, the first or "main" page in every directory (folder) of your website should be named either index or default or, when people try to access the directory in general (rather than a specific page in the directory), browsers will automatically generate a generic page with a list of links to everything in the directory. We recommend "index".


A word to the wise. Although some browsers will correctly display incorrect HTML — meaning, interpreting it in "quirks" mode such that it hopefully displays it the way you want it to look — others will not. Why chance that, one fine day (always when it is extremely important), the wrong person will visit your website and see a "broken" page?

Corollary. Some browsers incorporate proprietary HTML tags; that is, they only work in that particular browser. Internet Explorer (and, to some degree, the older Netscape browser) are/were (in)famous for this. This means that these proprietary tags will display properly only in IE or possibly some other browsers.

In the old days, one could argue that, well, IE is the most-used browser and so it "doesn't matter." Really? So ... what if your target audience is teachers or employees of a corporation that will not, for security reasons, upgrade? Or what if — as has happened in the last few years — a good percentage of people have switched to Firefox? Or Google Chrome?

Next ... HTML Page Structure

  1. The Learn Basic HTML Series:
    1. Learn Basic HTML and Web Page Construction
    2. What is HTML?
    3. HTML Page Structure
    4. Head Tag, MetaTags & Titles
    5. Adding Page Content
    6. Tables
    7. CSS and Fonts
    8. Putting It All Together
    9. Finale

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