HTML 4.0 Now Virtual Standard for Internet Community

HTML 4.0 Now Virtual Standard for Internet Community

By John Makulowich
Senior Writer

Enter the mecca of the World Wide Web and you're greeted with the organization's tag line: "Leading the Web to its Full Potential..." That ellipsis alone would satisfy the most jaded cynic - as long as he or she had a sense of irony.

If that's not enough subtlety for you, then the page's pull quote from the master himself, Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and inventor of the World Wide Web, should serve: "Insisting on HTML 4.0 compliance now will preserve your free choice of suppliers of Web software, tools and applications well into the future."

Notwithstanding the course of cyberhistory, the Way of the Web or the actions of the U.S. Department of Justice, the World Wide Web Consortium, just in time for the new year, issued HTML 4.0 as a W3C recommendation (http://www.w3.org/). That basically amounts to recognizing it as a standard for the Internet community.

If you are at all involved with the Web - and who isn't, these days - then you will want to review the changes since the last official release, that is, HTML 3.2 and the working draft of 4.0 issued last July.

For those new readers who have been under armed guard and held incommunicado for the last four years, HTML stands for hypertext markup language, the basic publishing language of the World Wide Web. A recommendation from the W3C means that a particular specification is stable and adds to Web interoperability. It also means that it has been reviewed by all W3C members who favor supporting its adoption by the industry.

One nice feature of the W3C site as well as the products they distribute is the range of ways they are made available. If you want to benchmark document distribution for the Internet, this is the best place to start. Thus, the HTML 4.0 specs are easily retrieved in postscript, Adobe's pdf format, text, HTML and more.

I especially like the HTML rendering. Why? You can download it to your hard drive, save it to a folder named HTML4 and then launch it offline via your browser of choice - including W3C's testbed client, Amaya, version 1.1c. The Adobe pdf version weighs in at around 2 Mb, while the HTML version runs to 1.5 Mb.

By the way, according to W3C, Amaya acts both as a browser and an authoring tool, designed primarily as a testbed for experimenting and demonstrating new specifications and extensions of Web protocols and standards. Among its features are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing for HTML documents, access to remote documents and publishing on HTTP servers and support and editing for cascading style sheets. If you are interested, there is documentation, titled "An Introduction to Amaya," on the Web site.

The consortium also just introduced the so-called W3C HTML Validation Service (http://validator.w3.org/). Thus, content providers can use the service to validate their pages against the new HTML standard. It can also be used to check conformance with previous versions of HTML.

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at john@journalist.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.



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