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From Scratch Web Games: A Beginners Guide to Game Development using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Chapter 2.2: What is HTML?

When we think of the internet, most people think of the World Wide Web, or just the web for short. This was not always the case. The early internet was used for several different programs such as Archie, Gopher, FTP, and Telnet. These are all tools for sharing files or information across a computer network as the internet is really just a very large network of computers linked together. While I suspect that the internet would not have taken off as much as it did if it wasn’t for the advent of browsers, it would have still been used in colleges and universities for research. It was to make research easier that resulted in HTML being created.

In Geneva, Switzerland, there is a physics research lab known as CERN. They are involved in very large particle physics experiments which requires the collaboration of very many researchers from several institutions that are spread out throughout the world. In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was a researcher at CERN and was in charge of organizing and distributing information. This is when he had the insight that you could link the documents together through some type of hyperlink system. The concept of hypertext was already known and had been used locally through programs such as Hypercard.

In order to create this networked hypertext system, Tim needed to create a server for handling the page requests and a browser for displaying the pages. The server needed a simple protocol so that browsers connecting to the server have a way of requesting pages and other page-related resources. This protocol was called HTTP and is built on top of the existing TCP/IP standard that most internet applications use. Most browsers do not need a server to display a local HTML file so you will not need to worry about having a server set up on your machine. Server software is needed for other computers to access the files.

The hypertext page needed to have a format. Tim decided to go with a text-based format based on the already existing SGML (Standard Generalized Mark-up Language) which was a standardized way for structuring text documents. Many of the elements used in HTML was taken from SGML with the biggest change being the addition of tags for handling hypertext links. Because Tim made all of his work publicly available, interest in this new technology started occurring around 1992 with the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputer Applications) developing a browser called Mosaic which was licensed to Spyglass for commercial distribution. One of the people involved in that project, Mark Andreessen, decided to create his own browser forming Netscape and the resulting Netscape browser which would eventually become Firefox. Many other companies also jumped into the browser battle. With such interest in browsers, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) HTML working group was formed to manage the standard.

New elements and features kept being requested. Browser manufacturers, wanting to get ahead of their competitors, added proprietary features. Fights over how new features should be implemented became common and the working group was just not hefty enough to manage everything so in late 1995 the W3 Consortum was formed to become the standards body for the HTML specification. This would also include separating the style from the document, which we will cover in the next chapter.

HTML standards continued to evolve, with HTML 5 being the last version of HTML. Not because the standard was complete, but when HTML 5 was standardized, the W3C decided to make it a living standard. A living standard simply means that new features will be added and that browsers that support a feature will use it while those that don’t will simply ignore the feature. This allows cutting edge developers to take advantage of new features right away instead of having to wait for the next version of the standard. As most browsers update themselves automatically now, it is likely that most users will have that feature available, but it is still a risk. All the elements we will discuss in this book are older features that nearly every browser in use will be able to take advantage of.

For those of you who want a more detailed history of the development of HTML, the W3C has posted a chapter from a book covering this. The link is https://www.w3.org/People/Raggett/book4/ch02.html .


Chapter 2 Contents

2.1 HTML Basics Cheat Sheet

The cheat sheet for this chapter.

2.2 What is HTML

A brief history of HTML

2.3 Structure of a HTML Document

What makes up a HTML file

2.4 Tags and Elements

How tags are used to create HTML elements

2.5 Special Symbols

How to display things such as <, >, &, 😀

2.6 Links

Linking to other pages, other sites, and within the page

2.7 Images

Adding images and image maps to your page.

2.8 Lists

Ordered and unordered lists and nesting lists.

2.9 Tables

Tables with spanning rows and columns.

2.10 HTML Only Game Project

The game of NIM is the project for this chapter.

2.11 HTML Only Game Solution

How my solution to the NIM game was put together

Bonus article

Solving Nim.

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Basic HTML cheat sheet
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Structure of a HTML Document
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