by Meghan Whitmore
When Tim Berners-Lee created the Internet, he envisioned it as a version of the human train of thought. The World Wide Web exists as hundreds of millions of constantly changing documents in an ever-widening cyberspace universe. These documents are written in their own special language known as HyperText Markup Language, or "HTML".
"Hypertext" is what allows you to navigate the web from page to page via "hyperlinks". Thanks to hyperlinks you can jump from page to page as quickly as your thoughts change or your interest is piqued. In this way, your experience of the Internet works much like your own thought processes.
The second essential feature of HTML is its universality. HTML can be read by any computer on any sort of Internet program, be it Macintosh or Windows or even a Palm Pilot. HTML makes the Internet accessible to anyone and everyone.
The World Wide Web is aptly named because it is a series of complexly interconnected sites, pages, and documents in an ever-growing woven mesh. When your computer is connected to this network, either via a permanent connection or through a modem, you have access to almost everything.
There are many programs like FrontPage and DreamWeaver that write HTML for you. But knowing at least the basics of HTML can give you some added freedom and understanding of your web page's design.
If HTML is the language, then HTML tags are the words, the instructions that translate to what you see on your computer screen.
The anatomy of an HTML tag is simple. There are two parts to an HTML tag: the opening tag and the closing tag. And in those tags there are three sub-parts, the tag, attribute, and value. The tag tells the browser what it needs to know to display your page. Each type of tag can have various attributes, such as font, size, and color. Then the specific font, size or color you choose is the value. So, for example, in the opening HTML tag: <BODY FONT="Verdana">, BODY is the tag, FONT is the attribute, and Verdana is the value. As a general rule, values should be contained in quotation marks, for clarity's sake.
The opening tag starts with the less-than sign (<), the name of the tag, and attributes and values, and then the greater-than sign (>). That begins the instructions. The closing tag looks similar but it ends with a forward slash followed by a greater-than sign (/>). For example, to display a word in italics, the tag would look like this:
To make a world bold, the tag looks like this: <B>. The end tag looks like this: </B> So to make "apple" bold, you would type: <B>apple</B>
Tags that have both an opening tag and a closing tag are known as container tags. The text that comes between those tags is what they manipulate. But there are other tags that do not need closer tags, and those are known as empty tags. An example of an empty tag is the tag for starting a new paragraph, <P>. It does not require a </P> at the end. But, for the most part, all of the tags we will work with in this lesson are container tags.
This guide will take you step by step through building your own simple HTML web page.