HTML: The Portable Language of The Web

Abbreviations: Internet shorthand opens a new world of terminology.

Addison Ching, Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Hypertext Markup Language, HTML, is the stuff the World Wide Web is made up of. HTML is used to define everything you see on a Web page--text, graphics, audio, and hyperlinks. Without HTML, special "emphasis" characteristics such as larger text, italics, emboldening, bullet points and horizontal rules, could not be presented on the Web page and viewed by Web browsing programs.

HTML is not a difficult concept to master. Students in elementary schools nationwide are busy developing HTML-based Web pages as a part of their classroom projects. Knowledge of a few basic HTML commands can allow anyone to produce a Web page with little effort.

There are many primers available on the use of HTML. NCSA's home page at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Campaign campus, is a nice source of such material. If you're curious what it takes to compose a Web page, your browser will allow you to look at or even save the HTML code that defines the page. By looking at the HTML, you can visualize the basic concepts that go into defining a document. You'll note that most text is modified by pairs of commands that surround the text they're modifying, and that these commands are enclosed within angle brackets (< and >). These paired commands turn a feature ON and OFF .

The nice thing about HTML is that it is platform-independent. Web browsers from all platforms understand HTML. Likewise, Web servers on different platforms also understand HTML. I experienced this at the beginning of February when I decided to move Newport-Mesa's Web server to a different computer. The original Web server was located on the same Macintosh IIci that also supported the district's GOPHER and mail servers. Additionally, this Macintosh is also used for word processing. The popularity of our Web server made it necessary to consider putting it on its own machine to increase its efficiency.

The University of Edinburgh's European Microsoft Windows NT Academic Centre (EMWAC) developed Web server software to run on a Windows NT PC. This software was obtained from EMWAC and installed on our Windows NT machine that was already a part of our Internet support facility. The software installed easily and the server was up and running in ten minutes. More remarkably, all the HTML documents (and their attendant GIF picture and AU sound files) that were originally a part of the Macintosh Web server were FTP'd directly to the Windows NT machine without modification! (One nice thing about Windows NT is its HPFS file structure that allows Unix-like file naming; this is what allowed the Macintosh filenames to be preserved across platforms.) The Web service was "cut over" to the Windows NT machine on February 2 by simply changing the machine-to-IP address reference in our Name Service. Web clients referencing the URL automatically routed to the new Web server; those clients that referenced the actual IP address did not.

Herein lies a lesson about the Internet: servers and IP addresses are changing all the time. What is available today might not be up tomorrow or may be moved to a different location. An inherent danger with associating Internet resources with their actual IP addresses is that the resources might change to a different IP address, as in the case of our Web server. If your resource is associated with its identifying machine name, then you should have no problem locating the resource if it is moved to a different machine (assuming the domain's Name Service is properly updated.)

In our case, both web servers were kept operational and the pages on the Macintosh were modified to indicate that the server had been relocated. Those still referencing the Macintosh Web server were advised to change their reference to the URL of Finally, a feature was added to the original Web pages to allow automatic routing to the corresponding page on the new Web server by clicking on a hyperlink.

Moving the Web server to the Windows NT machine was a wise decision. The Macintosh is now free to do its GOPHER and mail chores. The Windows NT machine, a 486dx2-66, is able to provide faster response to Web browser clients. In addition, the Macintosh Web server, which is still in operation to service those errant Web clients that still use actual IP addresses to connect to our Web server, is also used as a Web page development machine. Web pages to be added to our operational server are first proven on the Macintosh to ensure accuracy and operability before they are placed into actual service.