Internet History: HTML Code Evolution 1.0 to 5.0 [INFOGRAPHIC]

This HTML Evolution infographic takes a look at the transformation of web pages over the past 20 years, from HTML 1.0 to HTML 5.0. Prior to then, we’re just going to assume everyone played pong 🙂

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To view the enlarged version, click here.



•    HTML 1.0 debuts as a hybrid of SGML that includes the “href” tag marrying an already well-accepted text markup language with the ability to link documents.
•    The original release included only 20 elements, 13 of which are still a part of HTML 4.01.
•    This year also marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet. Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup:

  “The WorldWideWeb (WWW) project aims to allow all links to be made to any information anywhere. […] The WWW project was started to allow high energy physicists to share data, news, and documentation. We are very interested in spreading the web to other areas, and having gateway servers for other data. Collaborators welcome!”
•    Highlight: Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser WorldWideWeb, later renamed Nexus, and released it for the NeXTstep platform.

•    HTML 2.0 becomes the first official set of standards for HTML – the base standard by which all browsers were measured until HTML 3.2.
•    HTML 2.0 was used as a benchmark during the Web explosion.
•    Other browsers released in 1993 included Cello, Arena, Lynx, tkWWW and Mosaic.
•    Mosaic Communications, later renamed Netscape Communications, releases Netscape, based on the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ (NCSA) Mosaic browser- the 1st commercial web browser with a graphical interface.
•    Highlight: Mosaic was “well on its way to becoming the world’s standard interface”, according to Gary Wolfe of Wired.

•    HTML now supports tables allowing for improved control over the presentation of tabular information
•    HTML also supports “Client-Side Image Maps,” document elements that allows clicking different areas of an image to reference different network resources, as specified by Uniform Identifier (URIs).
•    The first CSS specification becomes an official W3C Recommendation and although completed, it was more than 3 years before any web browser achieved near-full implementation of the specification.
•    Highlight: IE 3.0 releases features equivalent to Netscape’s, which offered scripting support and the market’s 1st commercial CSS implementation.

•    After heated arguments from researchers who felt that text attributes, like background color and texture, font size and font face, were moving HTML away from its roots as a way to organize, not decorate, documents for sharing; and amidst the browsers wars between IE and Netscape, HTML 3.2 (code name WILBUR) is approved.
•    The concessions made to gain approval included the Internet Explorer camp and Netscape camps agreeing to kill their proprietary <marquee> and <blink> attributes, responsible for that eye-catching, flickering text we knew and hated.
•    This was the time of widespread over-use of frames in webpages, one of the worst Internet missteps, second only to auto-playing midi files.
•    Highlight: IE 4.0 releases, which was integrated into Microsoft Windows, discouraging users to use competing browsers since IE was there by default.

•    Cougar is the code name for what becomes HTML 4.0, published as a recommendation in late 1997 and finally approved as HTML 4.01.
•    This version includes Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), an easier way to control presentational elements, like colors, fonts, and backgrounds.
•    Highlight: Netscape was defeated in the “browser war” and was acquired by America Online for $4.2 billion.

•    HTML and XML join forces to become XHTML, picking up the rigid code structure of XML to enforce cleaner code, but requires code rewrites as it isn’t backwards compatible.
•    Though XML is the standard, most browsers forgive this and still allow sloppy code, uppercase code and improperly closed tags, to render making it difficult to attain wide adoption of stricter XML code.
•    Q: Why was the XHTML bird an invalid?
A: Because it wasn’t nested properly.
•    Highlight: IE is the dominant browser, attaining a peak of about 96% of the web browser usage share during 2002, more than Netscape had at its peak.

•    Many became critical of messy coding practices and the idea of tableless design began to grow.
•    The term “tableless design” implies the use of CSS rather than layout tables to position HTML elements on the page.
•    HTML tables still have their legitimate place when presenting out tabular information within web pages.
•    This was also the time new ideas for sharing and exchanging content ad hoc, such as Weblogs and RSS, gained adoption quickly and was named “Web 2.0”
•    Highlight: The 1st browser war ended with IE having no remaining serious competition for its market share – bringing end to the rapid innovation in web browsers for a while.

•    Ajax, a technique that dates back to IE 4’s iFrame, makes it quicker for web pages to request and update dynamic page content to respond like desktop applications as seen in cloud applications like Rackspace Email and Gmail, as well as social media sites, like Digg, Facebook, and Twitter; and online Content Management Systems (CMS), like WordPress.
•    Ajax was the name used by Adaptive Path in 2005 as an easier way to talk to clients about Asynchronous JavaScript+CSS+DOM+XMLHttpRequest
•    Highlight: Browser wars pick up again and Mozilla releases Firefox 1.0 in 2004; since then, Firefox continues to gain increasing browser market share.

•    Unhappy with the lack of focus on rich web applications in XHTML, the Web Hypertext Application Technology (WHAT) Work Group forms in 2004 with members of Apple, Mozilla, and Opera and publishes the first HTML5 draft four years later.
•    By 2009, the XHTML development team disassembles to join the HTML5 camp.
•    HTML5 isn’t slated to become a standard until at least 2022, but Firefox and IE9 are already supporting some of its features. As with most new versions of HTML, its dominance will only be as strong as its developer and browser support.
•    Highlight: Google releases the Chrome browser for Windows. Chrome gained a 3.6% usage share by Oct 09 and increased rapidly after the release of the beta for Mac OS X and Linux.

•    In 2010, Steve Jobs declares that Apple products will no longer support Flash for a range of reasons including its proprietary code and security holes and pushes the development of the audio and video playing features of HTML5 into the limelight.
•    Combining Flash and HTML5 to deliver a free space for people to share user-generated video, YouTube delivers about 2 billion videos each day after launching in 2005.
•    Highlight: StatCounter reports that Firefox 3.5 was the most popular browser, when counting individual browser versions, passing IE 7 and 8 by a small margin.

The Internet will be beamed directly into your brain from the cloud. We strongly recommend ad-blocking software.

Before leaving in 2016, Angela ran integrated marketing campaigns for Rackspace. She started in 2003 and did everything from Linux support, account management, sales, product marketing and marketing. She left Rackspace in 2005 to work for PEER 1 Hosting but returned in 2009 because she was interested in the cloud computing movement. Angela is a strong believer in the power of storytelling.


  1. Pretty funny how much the web has changed. Ironically, some of the content from 20 years ago was better than the stuff today. I actually like the more simplistic designs of the past.

  2. “HTML5 isn’t slated to become a standard until at least 2022”

    That’s got to be a typo (in the infographic too) – I’m guessing it’s supposed to be 2012, either that or a joke 🙂

  3. Was it for irony value that your page on the evolution of HTML was done in Flash?

    The result is a somewhat cramped presentation; with poor font clarity; non-standard scrolling support; and poor accessibility. A much better result could have been achieved with HTML.

    • Grant – Good point. We were a bit limited since this is has to fit into our blog. Whereas on the website, we have a bit more freedom. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. The browser wars still go on. People from different countries clearly have different preferences. Chrome already is the most popular browser in Chile, Tunisia, Philippines etc. The world map of popular browsers by country is available at

  5. A great article!

    Back in 1996, I remember we had to use LYNX to reach a website, and had to use the ‘tab’ button to go to a different field on the page. Reading this article took me down the memory lane, for a little while!
    I stumbled across this article while reading up on the ‘history of html’. It was a nice read.


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