WebReference.com - Part 1 of chapter 1 of Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation, from glasshaus (3/5) | WebReference

WebReference.com - Part 1 of chapter 1 of Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation, from glasshaus (3/5)

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Cascading Style Sheets

What Happened to HTML?

As I've already mentioned, when the Web was but a toddler, there was no style language available to web authors to instruct browsers on how to display the elements of a page. Instead, browsers had internal rules that governed all presentational aspects of a web page. For instance, a piece of content marked as a header would be typically rendered in a relatively large font with bold text, and something tagged as a <blockquote> would usually appear with indented left and right margins.

The user was given access to some of these rules through the browser's preferences. For example, a web surfer could select what color a link should be, and what typeface the browser should use. These preference settings applied globally, to all web pages, not to specific pages or sites.

However, web authors had no way to control layout or typography; they were totally at the mercy of the browser's internal page rendering engine, and these engines differed from browser to browser. For instance, take the <em> tag, which is used to markup up a bit of text intended to be emphasized. Some browsers choose to represent the <em> element with italicized text, while others use bolded text.

Now, this situation wasn't particularly problematic to the first web audience; the scientists that shared the first web pages were much more interested in the content of the documents than the typeface and color with which they were displayed. But, as the Web began to build an audience that was not exclusively research scientists sharing scientific results, the desire to control visual design of web pages grew accordingly. Early extensions to the HTML language, therefore, included <b> and <i> tags, which allowed the author to specify whether text should be bold or italic, respectively. Such minor additions were relatively benign, not seriously affecting the structural value of a document, but many more additions were to come, which would have more problematic results.

When Netscape introduced its 1.1 version of the popular Navigator browser, a new element was added to the HTML author's arsenal: the <table> element. An HTML <table> is intended to hold tabular data, with column and row headers organizing a grid of information, like so:

 

Milk

Eggs

Chocolate

Chocolate milk

Cadbury Creme Eggs

Flour

Batter

Dough

The <table> tag was a great addition to the HTML language, especially useful for displaying scientific results data, but it quickly became an innocent victim in a nefarious plot to twist the usage of the HTML language, resulting in the dot com collapse of the year 2000, and the loss of thousands of web related jobs. Well, not really... However, web authors did see something in the <table> tag that it was not intended for: a <table> could be used to create multi-column web page layouts.


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Created: June 10, 2002
Revised: June 10, 2002

URL: http://webreference.com/authoring/style/sheets/cssseparate/chap1/1/3.html