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conversion utilities but realized that, instead of a succession of small
utilities, he would be better off solving the general problem. He
believed a hypertext system would be ideal, but systems at the time
were too complex and difficult to author for. He set about designing a
simple hypertext system based on Standard Generalized Markup Lan-
guage (SGML) for a distributed client-server architecture.
This culminated in the release, on Christmas Day 1990, of the World-
WideWeb browser and server. It allowed each individual to publish
their documents in a standard format that anyone else could then read
across the network using the browser. The browser didn't need to be a
particular bit of software; anyone was free to implement a viewer. The
HTML document format was plain text interspersed with special tags
marked by angle brackets, such as <p> for
paragraph or <li> for list item, to mark the
purpose of the text. These documents could
be easily created on any type of computer.
The idea quickly caught on in the academic
world, and several more browsers
appeared: libwww, Mosaic, Midas, Erwise,
Viola WWW , and Arena, among others. The
authors of the various web browsers collab-
orated on the www-talk mailing list, dis-
cussing implementation strategies and
arguing about new features. Implementa-
tion usually won out over theory—when
Marc Andreessen proposed the <img> tag, it
was felt by many to be the worst of several
proposals put forward. But Andreessen was
the first person to implement his proposal,
so that was the tag everyone used in their
pages, and it's the tag we still use today.
1990 - 1993
Simple Hyperlinks and images
It's OK for documentation,
but I can't see it catching
on for anything else.
The primacy of features over standardiza-
tion threatened to destroy the ideals on
which the web was founded before it even
really got started—the situation was heading
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