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1  A Cougar in Your Cache?
2 Linking
3 Styles
4 Scripting
5 Caching Cougar
6 Forms
7 The RFC Collection (Tables, Uploads, and i18n)

A First Look at HTML 4.0/Cougar
by Jeffrey Veen 5 May 1997

Jeffrey Veen is a founding partner of the user experience consultant group Adaptive Path. He spends far too much time traveling the world in search of the perfect burrito. He also wrote a couple excellent Web design books.

Page 1

Last week, we took a look at the history of hypertext markup language, and how standards committees, corporate development, and personal agendas have swayed its evolution. And, with a bit of optimism, we saw how the most recent public version of HTML, dubbed 3.2, managed to do an admirable job of digging through the mass of browser-compatibility issues to record "current practice."

But it wasn't always this rosy.

Still, as fast as technology develops in the digital world, any effort to create standards is going to be obsolete almost by default. And such is the case with HTML 3.2. The specification essentially captured the Web in the 2.0 browser world, where frames and scripting and style were only beginning to emerge. Thus, with a solid spec under its belt and a handful of new technologies beginning to mature, the World Wide Web Consortium is beginning to show off the next version of the language, which is destined for the 4.0 moniker, but currently under the developmental codename "Cougar."

Not surprisingly, Cougar takes off where HTML 3.2 left off. Cougar itself can't really be considered a spec - it's more like a collection of specifications. This group of drafts is far-reaching, detailing everything from how frames work in current browser implementations to internationalization issues in structured documents. By bringing together the various drafts, the W3C can give Web authors and designers something concrete to turn to when making technology decisions, while leaving the various standards bodies with small, manageable chunks on which to focus their energy.

Best of both worlds? Let's hope so. Without a solid spec to follow, browsers spit your content out in random, uncontrolled ways. And that hurts not only content providers and end users, but browser developers as well. If something looks broken on a page, who gets blamed?

Regardless, there's a lot to learn from the new spec. Just keep in mind that these are proposed drafts; they're merely up for discussion, and not intended for you to start citing as "standard HTML." There's a lot of work to be done on these documents to get them into a blessed specification.

Included are new drafts on the following development areas: linking, styles, scripting, forms, frames, objects, entities, file upload, tables, and internationalization. We'll take a look at what's offered in the first few this week, and will cover the remainder in future Tools columns.

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