The next generation of HTML (hypertext markup language) is a reality, as the Web's main standards body today recommended it as a specification.
First made public in July, HTML 4.0 is the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) latest recommendation for HTML, the basic publishing language of the Web. A W3C recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by all W3C members, who are in favor of supporting its adoption by the industry.
HTML 4.0 adds support for cascading style sheets, which give Web designers much greater flexibility in creating the look and feel of their pages. Style sheets carry the design information for a page or set of pages and let designers use programming scripts and objects to create dynamic content on a page.
Other features include advanced forms, in-line frames, enhanced tables, and support for objects and scripts. Additionally, HTML 4.0 provides the markup needed for any language including multilingual documents, allowing authors to manage differences in language, text direction, and character encoding. HTML 4.0 is also accessible to users with disabilities, allowing table and form text to be rendered into Braille or speech.
The two major browser makers, Microsoft and Netscape Communications, have been battling over pieces of the spec and, to the frustration of many Webmasters, already have implemented separate and in some cases incompatible versions of the new HTML.
"It's not just that HTML 4.0 works across browsers," Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and inventor of the World Wide Web, said in a statement today. "It will work across future tools and Web products. Any serious Web application should be HTML 4.0 compliant from now on."
To further promote the reliability and accuracy of communications on the Web, the W3C today also introduced the W3C HTML Validation Service. Content providers can use the service to validate their Web pages against the HTML 4.0 recommendation. In addition, it can be used to check conformance against previous versions of HTML.