In my previous post regarding Markup languages, we tried to understand the technicalities, implications and the importance of markup language. To quickly recap, a markup language is a combination of text as well as coded instructions to help format and present data in the form of either web pages or documents. It will be interesting to know that the word “markup” originated from the traditional practice of marking up the margins of a paper with printer’s instructions.

The usefulness of the markup language truly got realized only recently after the arrival of the World Wide Web though it has been present since the 1960’s. As a simple language that enforces rules in the form of tags for formatting and presenting data, today markup language such as HTML has become the core of the existence of the internet as it unifies the way the data is presented on different systems and browser programs.

It’s all about well aligning the text in a predefined format to make it readable. In today’s world of multiple portable devices and browsers, this becomes an essential task as we have many devices with so many different sizes.

I thought it would be interesting in doing a quick research on how markup language has evolved over these years to the current version of HTML 5 and also what is expected to come in the near future.

Evolution of Markup Language over the years.

  • 1978 – Tex: This was the year when Tex, a typesetting or more of a formatting system which was designed and written by Donald Knuth. The major intention of creating Tex was basically
    • To make it possible for anybody to produce high-quality books with minimum efforts for formatting the content and
    • Secondly to give the same reading and visual experience of the content on all computers.
    • Tex is regarded as the most sophisticated digital typographical system in the world.
    • Tex is more popular in academia, mathematics, economics and computer science where it’s mainly used to produce research papers and notes.
  • 1984 – LaTex: Latex stands for Lamport Text document preparation system.
    • Uses Markup tagging conventions for the general structure of the document.
    • This was mainly used for academics or educational documents, communication, and publication of scientific papers.
    • Intended to provide high-level language providing access to the powers of Tex in an easier manner.
    • Tex used to handle the layout side of the document and Latex was more focussed on the content side for document processing.
  • Postscript – 1984/85: Developed and released in the year 1985 by Adobe systems this programming language has come a long way and become an industry standard for printing and imaging.
    • Postscript is a page description language in the desktop publishing and printing business.
    • Today all major printer manufacturers make printers containing Postscript software.
    • It runs on major operating system platforms.
    • It describes the text and graphic elements on a page which can be printed on either a black and white or color printer or any other output device.
  • HTML – 1989: It was in the year 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee came up with the concept of the HTML while working in a computing services section of CERN. Well at that time Tim had the least idea that his invention would revolutionize the computing world in such an enormous form. It was a mere idea to meet the requirement of many researchers who wanted to pool in their research documents and share it. Tim came up with the innovative idea of linking text with document files rather than the need to download them to individual computers.
    • HTML, the concept was based on SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), which is an internationally agreed method for making up text content into structured units as paragraph headings, lists and much more.
    • It’s a markup language that web browsers use to interpret and then compose text and images into visual materials presented in the form of web pages.
  • PDF – 1993: The Portable Document Format which is most commonly referred to as PDF is a file format which presents documents independent of the application software, hardware or the operating systems on which it is viewed.
    • The format is largely based on the PostScript Language.
    • It supports graphic transparency.
    • A very big feature of the pdf format is that there is no processing involved as the complete document is processed with every single page independent of the other. This is in comparison with the PostScript where a single document had to be processed sequentially right from the first page to the last to view it.
  • XHTML – 1993: Extensible Hypertext Markup Language is part of the XML markup language and it defines rules for encoding document which is understandable and readable both by the humans as well as machines.
    • XHTML is a strict code version of the HTML and it has set rules by which the codes need to be written which will result in well-displayed documents.
    • By having a well-structured code rule it provides greater control over documents.
    • Web browsers are now able to display the page quicker than one with errors and unformatted codes.
  • HTML 2.0 – 1995: The version 2.0 had a specification that included both the machine readable public text and also the human readable text.
  • CSS – 1996: A unique evolution in the markup languages was the introduction of CSS and has widely today been used as the easiest and credible way of formatting web pages with visual results. CSS is the language for describing the presentation of web pages which includes the color, layout and fonts.
    • CSS is a separate document created with the necessary formatting codes which allow the presentation of web pages with the intended format pertaining to the color, alignment, and fonts.
    • A single CSS document can be included in any number of web pages which gives the developer the viability and ease of lesser code to be written on each web page.
    • It allows one to adapt the presentation of the web pages to different types of devices as large screens, small screen or printers.
    • CSS is completely independent of HTML and can be used with any XML-based markup language.
  • HTML 3.2 – 1997: This year saw the introduction of the 3.2 version of HTML which is a W3C’s specification for HTML. It was developed in 1996 together with vendors like IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, Novell, Spyglass, and Sun.
    • One of the main features of HTML 3.2 was the deployment of features like tables, applets and text flow around the images.
    • A full backward compatibility was provided with the existing standard HTML 2.0.
  • XML – 1998: XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is a software and hardware independent tool for storing and also for transporting data. It’s a markup language just like HTML.
    • Basically, XML was designed to be a self-descriptive language and is a W3C recommendation.
    • XML on its own does not carry any process but is just information which is wrapped in tags.
    • The main difference between XML and HTML is that XML was designed to carry data and with a major focus on data.
    • On the other hand, HTML was designed to display data with more focus on how data looks.
    • All tags used in XML are not predefined as that like in HTML tags.
  • GML – 1999: GML stands for Geography Markup Language (GML) which is an XML grammar defined by the OGC, Open Geospatial Consortium to express geographical features on the web.
    • A modeling language for geographic systems.
    • It’s an open interchange format to help have geographical transactions and features to be displayed on the internet.
  • HTML 4.01 – 1999: HTML 4.01 was a great step which made the web more accessible internationally. It had made provisions granting webmasters many opportunities with the new HTML specifications.
  • HTML 5.0 – 2014: With the advent of the Social Media Platforms the newest and the most advanced of the releases was the HTML 5.0. It was published in October 2014 by the W3C with the intention to improve the language with essential support to multimedia.
    • This version is the fifth and the current version of HTML  standards.
    • It includes a lot of detailed processing models to have interoperable implementations.
    • Introduced Markup and API ( Application Programming Interfaces) for today’s web applications.
    • HTML5 also support cross-platform mobile applications as it has incorporated features to support low powered devices as well.
    • A new set of syntax is included in HTML 5.0 which will natively handle multimedia and graphical content.
  • HTML 5.1 – 2015: Just after the release of HTML 5.0 and with its so many added wonderful features the W3C in October 2015 started working on the draft of HTML 5.1. The goal was to fix some of the issues that were lacking in HTML 5.0.

Coming up in the evolution of this incredible language that has facilitated us with the resource-rich Web and the Internet is going to be the advent of the next version of HTML with version 5.2.

  • HTML 5.2 – 2019: As still in the beta stages, the W3C has given the following dates for release of the new specification standards and the year 2019 for the release of HTML 5.2 with many more features to come.
    • The international consortium W3C marked the following dates for release specification standards: HTML 5.1 and 2016 to 2019 for HTML 5.2

The evolution and journey in the development of the markup language have been incredible and has always tried to cater to the modern age web requirements. All features and elements have seen improvements to support the requirements of the web in order to make it compatible with the today’s systems, devices right from the desktop to the smart watches we wear and much more is yet to come.