Extract from http://www.yourhtmlsource.com/starthere/historyofhtml.html
start here ----
HTML 1.0 was the first release of HTML to the world. Not many people were involved in website creation at the time, and the language was very limiting. There really wasn't much you could do with it bar getting some simple text onto the web. But then, just that got the beardos a-foamin' back in the day.
HTML 2.0 included everything from the original 1.0 specifications but added a few new features to the mix. » HTML 2.0 was the standard for website design until January 1997 and defined many core HTML features for the first time.
More and more people were getting into the HTML game around now, and while the previous standards offered some decent abilities to webmasters (as they became known), they thirsted for more abilities and tags. They wanted to enhance the look of their sites.
This is where trouble started. » Netscape at the time was the clear leader in the browser market. To appease the cries of the HTML authors, they introduced new proprietary tags and attributes into their Netscape Navigator browser. These new abilities were called Netscape extension tags. This caused big problems as other browsers tried to replicate the effects of these tags so as not to be left behind but could not get their browsers to display things the same way. This meant that if you designed a page with Netscape ETs, the page would look bad in other browsers. This caused confusion and irritation for the markup pioneers.
At this time,
a HTML working group, led by a man named »
Dave Raggett introduced a new HTML draft, HTML 3.0. It included many new
and improved abilities for HTML, and promised far more powerful opportunities
for webmasters to design their pages. Sadly, the browsers were awfully slow
in implementing any of the new improvements, only adding in a few and leaving
out the rest. Partly, this failure can be attributed to the size of the overhaul;
and so the HTML 3.0 spec was abandoned.
Thankfully, the people in charge noted this and so future improvements were always designed to be modular. This meant they could be added in stages, which makes it easier on the browser companies.
The browser-specific tags kept coming, and it became increasingly apparent that a standard needed to be found. To this end, the » World Wide Web Consortium (abbreviated to the W3C) was founded in 1994 to standardise the language and keep it evolving in the right direction. Their first work was named WILBUR, and later became known as » HTML 3.2. This was a toned-down change to the existing standards, leaving many of the big steps forward for later versions. Most of the extensions tags that had been introduced by Netscape (and to a lesser-extent, Microsoft) did not make it into these new standards. It soon caught on and became the official standard in January '97, and today practically all browsers support it fully.
HTML 4.0 was a large evolution of the HTML standards, and the last iteration of classic HTML. Early in development it had the code-name COUGAR. Most of the new functionality brought in this time is from the ill-fated HTML 3.0 spec, as well as a host of trimmings on old tags, a focus on internationalisation, and support for HTML's new supporting presentational language, cascading stylesheets.
HTML 4.0 was recommended by the W3C in December '97 and became the official standard in April 1998. Browser support was undertaken surprisingly earnestly by Microsoft in their Internet Explorer browser, and the market-leading IE5 (and current successor IE6) have excellent support for almost all of the new tags and attributes. In comparison, Netscape's terribly flawed Navigator 4.7 was crap when it came to HTML 4.0 and even basic CSS. Navigator 6 however, is a vast improvement.
Once HTML 4.0 had been out for a little while, the documentation
was revised and corrected in a few minor ways and was entitled HTML 4.01; the
final version of the specification.
Head on over to the W3C site for the » official documentation; and to read more about the new tags, attributes and redundancies brought about by this new standard, read our article, HTML 4.0 Explained.
Close to the beginning of the 21st century the W3C issued their » specifications of XHTML 1.0 as a recommendation. Since January 26, 2000 it stands as joint-standard with HTML 4.01. XHTML marks a departure from the way new specs have worked — it is an entirely new branch of HTML, taking in ideas from » XML, which is a far more complicated markup language than HTML. There aren't many new or deprecated tags and attributes in this version of HTML, but there are things that have changed with a view of increased accessibility and functionality. It's mainly just a new set of coding rules. Read all about it properly in XHTML Explained.