What is HTML in Computer Science?


January 2023

CSDH Staff

HTML is short for Hypertext Markup Language. It is not a programming language, but a standard markup language used in web page creation. You use HTML tags to structure or build a web page and its content.

In this article, we go over the meaning of HTML in computer science. We also discuss its many uses. We talk about how HTML works, its pros and cons, and how how it’s evolved over the years. Read on for more information on what HTML means in computer science.

What HTML Stands For in Computer Science

What is HTML in computer science? HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. But what does this mean?

HTML elements are the building blocks of a web page. You use HTML tags to create user-friendly content. HTML code is one way to structure and create paragraphs, content sections, and links. You use HTML in:

  • Web development
  • Web documentation
  • Web navigation

Now let’s take a look at how you can put HTML computer technology to use. In page or content development, content developers use HTML code to design text. You can design how a browser displays a web page on the internet. These web page elements include hyperlinks and media files. Some browsers have trouble reading new tags, but we will touch on this later in the article.

HTML in web documentation makes it possible to format documents. This is similar to word processing programs like Microsoft Word. When you format your text, you make the page user-friendly and visually pleasing for the reader.

In web or internet navigation, HTML makes it possible for users to navigate between related web pages. You can also navigate between websites thanks to the ability to embed hyperlinks.

The History of HTML Technology

In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee started working on a prototype to HTML. At the time, he worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. At the end of that decade, Berners-Lee had created the basic HTML. He had also created an internet browser and server software for the computer HTML program.

Over the next two decades, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) would continue development on an international standard for the code. In 1995, a second version of HTML came out. Several updates followed during the upcoming years.

Today, we use HTML5. It is the latest version of the language. HTML5 is a “living standard,” which means it exists as a continuously updated standard. It is the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) that participates in the ever-evolving state of HTML. This group has worked on HTML files, HTML tags, and HTML code since 2004.

WHATWG is a community with participants from technology giants like:

  • Apple
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Mozilla

What’s interesting about WHATWG is that they haven’t had the best working relationship with W3C. In 2018, W3C described WHATWG as a “splinter group” that had plans to overtake W3C with its power and influence in updating standards for HTML.

An image of HTML tags for our FAQ on What is HTML in Computer Science

How Computer HTML Works

Now that you know the HTML meaning in computer science and technology, you’ll want to understand how it works. Since HTML doesn’t fall in the category of programming languages, how does it operate?

We know that HTML is different from a programming language. When you look at web pages on the world wide web, you’re looking at HTML files or codes. Web browsers read and interpret this information and display it as:

  • Media files
  • Photos
  • Text

When creating web pages, you can use HTML. There are many HTML attributes that the author of a basic web page uses. Markup languages, such as HTML, use an HTML tag. Tags come in pairs. There is an opening tag and a closing tag.

For example, a writer uses the letter “P” with a set of brackets to indicate the start of a paragraph. You use a second “P” within a second set of brackets to indicate the end of the paragraph. This is the closing tag for the paragraph tags. The first piece of code opens the paragraph and the second piece of code (closing tags) closes it.


Many have the impression that HTML is a machine language. But it does not execute instructions. So, believing HTML is machine language generated is false. Rather, a browser reads it and draws the HTML tag on the page.

You create an HTML page using hypertext markup language HTML. But to drill down further, you use tags. An HTML element is a tag you use to give a web page structure. You use both opening and closing tags with markup languages like HTML.

Most Common HTML Tags

  • <h1> Describes a top-level heading (Heading 1 or H1).
  • <h2> Describes a second-level heading (Heading 2 or H2).
  • <p> A paragraph HTML element that creates paragraphs in text.
  • <table> Describes tabular data.
  • <ol> A list tag that describes an ordered list of information.
  • <ul> Describes an unordered list of information.

When using list tags, you enclose individual list items with the <li> tag. Some refer to this HTML tag as the closing tag. Not all elements need a closing tag. More on this later in the article.

All the above are block-level elements. But there are also inline elements. These add links or provide emphasis. The most common block-level HTML documents of this kind is the <strong> tag. This tag bolds an element. The <em> tag renders an HTML element in italics and makes your text stand out to web browsers.

Inline HTML Tags

Inline elements also include hyperlinks. In web development, they use an href attribute value (same class value) and an <a> tag to show a link’s destination. Here’s an example:

<a href=“https://example.com/”>Click here!</a>

There are many different tags used in this markup language. But you don’t have to memorize them all before you get started. Resources exist online that can help you get a jump start on designing and structuring a new web page. A quick Google search should take you where you need to go.

An image of HTML and CSS font for our FAQ on What is HTML in Computer Science

How Does HTML Use CSS and Javascript

You use HTML to create text elements and structure content. But an HTML file doesn’t always work alone. To build a dynamic and functional web page, you need help from other languages. That’s where CSS and Javascript come in.

Cascading Style Sheets

CSS helps with the stylings of web pages. You can keep your pages clean and concise, or add different elements to them. The elements you add can help your page stand out. With an HTML file and CSS, you can create:

  • Animations
  • Backgrounds
  • Colors
  • Layouts
  • Spacing

Everything that makes a web page attractive is because of the help of CSS.


Java adds functionality to a web page. You use this language with HTML to add dynamic functionality, such as:

  • Photo galleries
  • Pop-ups
  • Sliders

In terms of front-end development, these three languages are the foundation. They work together to create and run a dynamic web page.

HTML Pros and Cons

Like many computer languages, this extensible markup language has its limitations. But HTML pages also have their strengths. Here are few pros and cons of using HTML.

Pros of HTML

  • Accessible on all browsers. You can run an HTML file on any web browser. The language is also open-source and free to use.
  • Adaptable and flexible. You can integrate an HTML file with other backend programming languages. These include PHP and Node.js.
  • Clean and consistent. An HTML document is clean and consistent. Its source code makes it easy to read.
  • Large support network. The large community of support behind the language makes it a great space to find resources.
  • User-friendly for beginners. Building HTML pages is easy to learn. The language has a low learning curve that beginners enjoy. This makes it easy for students and builds confidence for those starting out in computer science.

Cons of HTML

  • Browser behavior can fluctuate. An older internet browser can have trouble reading a root element or new tags. You see older web browsers having trouble with a certain HTML class attribute or HTML file.
  • Functionality limited. You use HTML elements for static web pages. This means they aren’t dynamic in nature. You have to use backend programming languages to boost functionality.
  • Separate and not equal. Users must create separate web pages for HTML. This is true even when HTML elements are the same.

HTML Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know the hypertext markup language basics, it’s time to brush up on frequently asked questions. Here are some quick answers to the most common questions about an HTML file or web page.

Can I Use HTML on All Web Browsers?

Older browsers have trouble running HTML, but new browsers don’t. The browsers everyone uses today can read all HTML tags with no trouble. But some of the old ones have trouble reading every tag.

An image of two computer science students for our FAQ on What is HTML in Computer Science

Is HTML Easy to Learn?

The short answer is yes. Since HTML is not a programming language, it is a quick language to learn. Thanks to the large number of resources out there, you can create an HTML page in no time. Remember, front end programming is the easiest to use.

What Can I Use HTML For?

You can use HTML to create, describe, and structure a web page. HTML has many uses. But for starters, it makes it possible to create and structure a static HTML page. You use an HTML tag or HTML code to do this. You can then create:

  • Headings
  • Images
  • Links
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Text

Is HTML a Programming Language?

As discussed above, HTML is not a programming language. But it is a language nonetheless. HTML is a standard generalized markup language. An HTML page uses HTML code. But it’s not the same kind of code you use in programming.

HTML doesn’t execute instructions. Basic HTML code gets read by a browser. Browsers then draw the elements on the screen so the user can see them.

What is Doctype HTML?

Doctype HTML is a document type declaration. All documents in HTML start with a <!DOCTYPE> declaration. But don’t mistake this declaration as an HTML tag. It’s not. It is information sent to the browser about what document to expect.

What is the Difference Between an HTML Element and a Tag?

An HTML element communicates to the browser to render basic HTML text. When you enclose these elements in brackets, they form HTML tags. In most cases, tags come in pairs. They surround content and help a browser read the HTML document.

What is an Opening Tag?

You have two types of tags in an HTML file. Opening and closing. With a basic HTML element, you need to open with a tag. Each tag has different properties. They display different information on a web page. But every tag has a tag that opens HTML attributes.

On the flip side, not every HTML attribute value has an end tag. Some tags don’t need a closing tag. You see this with images and breaks in web page paragraphs. You need a paragraph element that opens a break, but doesn’t close it.

How Many Types of Headings Do You Find in an HTML File?

A standard HTML file has six types of headings. Each heading tag displays a different text size. These headings are useful in creating a clean and concise web page. Remember, web pages are easier to read when they’re structured.


HTML is not a programming language. It is as its name portrays. A hypertext markup language. It displays information for the world wide web internet browser to read.

HTML has many uses. It’s helpful in creating and structuring web pages. It creates concise layouts and visually pleasing text. HTML is one of those advances in technology that’s made life easier for web developers. But you don’t need a degree in computer science to use it. Anyone can learn HTML thanks to its user-friendly design.

HTML is accessible to everyone, and easy to understand. People use it widely, so there are a lot of resources out there for beginners. There is also a large community behind it. So, if you’re starting out, you won’t get lost.

If you’re interested in learning more about HTML and other programming languages used in computers, check out these links below.

Related Resources: