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1.3. HTML 4.0

The most recent release of recommendations for HTML is Version 4.0 (http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/). As you will see in more detail in Section 7.1, HTML 4.0 has a considerably larger vocabulary than the previous release that is in common use, Version 3.2. Surprisingly, this time around the standard is way ahead of the browser makers. Many of the new features of HTML 4.0 are designed for browsers that make the graphical user interface of a web page more accessible to users who cannot see a monitor or use a keyboard. The new tags and attributes readily acknowledge that a key component of the name World Wide Web is World. Users of all different written and spoken languages need equal access to the content of the Web. Thus, HTML 4.0 includes support for the alphabets of most languages and provides the ability to specify that a page be rendered from right to left, rather than left to right, to accommodate languages that are written that way.

Perhaps the most important long-term effect of HTML 4.0, however, is distancing the content of web pages from their formatting. Strictly speaking, the purpose of HTML is to provide structural meaning to the content of pages. That's what each tag does: this blurb of text is a paragraph, another segment is labeled internally as an acronym, and a block over there is reserved for data loaded in from an external multimedia file. HTML 4.0 is attempting to wean authors from the familiar tags that make text bold and red, for example. That kind of information is formatting information, and it belongs to a separate standardization effort related to content style.


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