Note on standards: The history of HTML

It is hard to believe it but HTML is only 20 years old. And if you count from the point of wide adoption of the standard, it is even less. The fist popular implementation of HTML shipped in 1993 as part of Marc Andreessen's web browser Mosaic (which later morphed into Netscape Navigator and then was re-born as Mozilla Firefox). The standard went through several revisions, arriving to the current official version 4.0 in 1997. You can see a detailed chronology of HTML's early history here: http://hixie.ch/commentary/web/history

By 2003 or so, work began on the next version of HTML. It was expected to ship in finished official form by 2010. As of today, it is still in draft form. However, the bulk of the work in HTML 5 has been done; only minor details remain to be decided on. HTML 5 will be the most important change of a decade in web standards. If you are serious about web work, you cannot afford not to know about HTML 5. Even though modern browsers currently don't fully support it, there is already a lot of exciting work in HTML 5 that would be impossible in HTML 4. The best place to learn about HTML 5 is http://diveintohtml5.org/

But let's go back to HTML 4.0. It came about in 1997. In late 1996, the first full specification of CSS was adopted. One of key new features in HTML 4 was the deprecation of tags that allowed you to style your fonts - i.e. control the typeface and its size. It was believed that this was now better done in CSS (as is indeed the case - content must be separate from style). So tags like font, that were perfectly valid in HTML 3, were deprecated in HTML 4. However, the phasing out couldn't be done overnight - it would kill too many things. So HTML 4 came in to flavours - HTML 4 Strict ( = no deprecated tags allowed) and HTML 4 Transitional ( = deprecated tags still supported). Here's a good starting point to learn more about the difference between the two standards: http://24ways.org/2005/transitional-vs-strict-markup