Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

Introduction | Sustainability Factors | Content Categories | Format Descriptions | Contact
Format Description Categories >> Browse Alphabetical List

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) 2.0

>> Back
Table of Contents
Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name HyperText Markup Language (HTML) 2.0

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications. This format description is for the first formally standardized specification for HTML, published as RFC 1866: Hypertext Markup Language - 2.0 in November 1995 by the HTML Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

HTML 2.0 introduced the general structure that has been retained in later versions of HTML. An overarching <HTML> element contains a <HEAD> element and a <BODY> element, defining the two main components of an HTML document. The <BODY> component contains the visible content of document. The <HEAD> component contains the mandatory <TITLE> element and optional elements for document metadata, links to related external resources, and support for server functions. The new <META> element was introduced as an extensible container for individual metadata elements, expressed as name/value pairs. Another new feature standardized in HTML 2.0 was support for forms that allow users to enter and submit data, triggering an action, such as a search.

The specification included several document type definitions (DTDs). The main DTD (Level 2) covered all HTML features described in the specification, including deprecated features. A Strict DTD provided a more structurally rigid definition in order to support strict SGML validation. A Level 1 DTD excluded use of the new form feature. A Strict Level 1 DTD could be used to support strict validation but excluded the use of forms. The compilers of this resource have not determined whether DTDs other than the main, most permissive DTD were used in practice. Comments welcome. For a discussion of the potential use of different DTDs and DOCTYPE declarations for HTML dialects, see HTML Dialects. The next officially adopted specification for HTML (HTML 3.2) did not define different DTDs in this way.

Over the next fifteen months, several extensions to HTML 2.0 were proposed and published as IETF RFCs. See Status pages for HTML Working Group from the IETF.

  • RFC 1867 (November 1995) proposed an extension to the form feature to support uploading of files. This extension was incorporated into HTML 3.2 (January 1997).
  • RFC 1942 (May 1996) defined markup for tables. A subset of the proposed table markup was incorporated into HTML 3.2.
  • RFC 1980 (August 1996) proposed an extension to support a client-side mechanism for image maps, which allow users to access different documents by clicking different areas in an image. This extension was incorporated into HTML 3.2
  • RFC 2070 (January 1997) addressed the issue of internationalization of HTML by extending the specification of HTML 2.0, primarily by removing the restriction to the ISO-8859-1 coded character set. The proposal was to extend the character set to be the Universal Character Set (UCS) of ISO 10646:1993 "as amended" (equivalent to Unicode). Several encodings were permitted. This proposal was not incorporated into HTML 3.2, but was incorporated into HTML 4.0 (December 1997). For more on character encodings in HTML, see HTML_4_01 and Useful References below.
Production phase The primary use of HTML is as a final-state format for web pages made available on the Internet. Early HTML files were often created directly in a text editor. Some HTML 2.0 documents will have been created in early visual HTML editors. See Notes below.
Relationship to other formats
    Subtype of HTML_family, HTML File Format Family
    Has earlier version HTML_early, HyperText Markup Language (HTML), versions prior to 2.0
    Has later version HTML_3_2, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) 3.2
    Defined via SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). ISO 8879:1986

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings See HTML_family.
LC preference See HTML_family.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms


HTML 2.0 is a non-proprietary format, openly documented specification and freely implementable.


Version 2.0 of the HTML specification was published by the IETF as RFC 1866 in November 1995. Over the next fifteen months, several extensions were specified as IETF RFCs. See Format Specifications below.


HTML 2.0 was widely used in the 1990s and occasional pages using this version of HTML are still to be found on the Web. Some features of HTML 2.0 are not supported in browsers current as of March 2018. These include the ISINDEX and NEXTID tags. Obsolete tags can be identified at CanIUse or in the latest HTML 5.x specification.

See also HTML_family.

    Licensing and patents

See HTML_family.

Transparency All HTML files can be opened and viewed in text editors. Since HTML 2.0 files do not include style markup (e.g., in CSS) or scripts (e.g., Javascript), their contents are easily read and interpreted using a plain text editor. The earliest visual editors for HTML appeared in 1995 and will have been used during the period HTML 2.0 was current. See Notes below.
Self-documentation HTML 2.0 introduced the <HEAD> section, which could include <META> elements to describe the HTML document using name/value pairs. See HTML_family.
External dependencies None.
Technical protection considerations See HTML_family.

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Normal rendering The character encoding specified for HTML 2.0 corresponds to ISO Latin-1 character set, comprising 191 graphic characters, including the alphabets of most Western European languages. Characters that could not be entered on a keyboard could be incorporated by using SGML-style entities. For example, a lower-case e with acute accent could be typed as &eacute; or &#233; (the equivalent code in ISO Latin-1 as a decimal number). For other textual characteristics of HTML documents, see HTML_family.
Integrity of document structure HTML 2.0 included structural elements for paragraphs, headings, ordered and unordered lists. Also defined were "blockquote" blocks for wrapping a quotation from another source and two special types of list block, <MENU> and <DIR> (for directories).
Integrity of layout and display Preserving particular aspects of layout was not an intent of the original HTML. The focus was on making the textual content and semantic structure of a resource conveniently readable on different devices.
Support for mathematics, formulae, etc. The HTML 2.0 specification includes no support for representing mathematics.
Functionality beyond normal rendering HTML was developed specifically to support linking among online resources. HTML 2.0 included support for forms that allowed users to enter data, for example, terms that could be used to query a database or user name and password to log in to a website.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension See related format.  See HTML_family
Internet Media Type See related format.  See HTML_family
Magic numbers <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0
The specification for HTML 2.0 requires that a conforming document start with a document type declaration that begins with '<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0'. Variants are specified for different profiles, but all begin with this string. Note that lower case characters may be used.
Pronom PUID fmt/97
Wikidata Title ID Q2892563

Notes Explanation of format description terms


Editing HTML 2.0 documents: In the early days of HTML, pages were authored in text-based editors. Indeed, many were created on systems without a graphical display. WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) or visual editors appeared in the mid 1990s. According to What's WYSIWYG? How Today's Online Editor Came to Be, the first WYSIWYG HTML editor, WebMagic, was launched by Silicon Graphics in 1995. FrontPage was released by Vermeer Technologies in late 1995 and acquired by Microsoft in 1996. DreamWeaver was released by Macromedia in 1997 and widely adopted for building and maintaining websites. See Wikipedia's list of HTML Editors.

HTML Forms: HTML 2.0 standardized a method for users to enter data into an HTML document and for that data to be used to perform an action, such as logging in to the website or entering terms for a search query. A form is a template for a sequence of name/value pair fields with an associated action. A <FORM> element has a sequence of <INPUT> elements. Each <INPUT> element has a NAME attribute; the associated value is given an initial value using markup and can be edited by the user, subject to constraints specified in the markup. A special <INPUT> element is presented to the user as an option to submit the entered data. After submission by the user, the set of data is sent to the URL specified in the ACTION attribute of the <FORM>.


The first formal standard for the HTML format was version 2.0, and published as RFC 1866 in November 1995 by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force. During 1995, the popularity of the web and conflicting ideas for new features, including from the emerging browser vendors, overwhelmed the IETF working group. A version 3.0 for HTML had been prepared as an IETF Internet Draft, but expired in September 1995 without moving to the IETF Standards track. A November 1995 meeting resulted in the forming of a new group under the auspices of the World Wide Web consortium (W3C), founded in 1994. The new group consisted largely of representatives from browser vendors. The IETF HTML Working group disbanded in December 1995 and the W3C became the home for HTML standardization. The next version of HTML that reached a stage of approval was HTML 3.2, issued as a W3C Recommendation by in January 1997.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 03/28/2018