KillerSites Blog

The Joy of Semantics: HTML5 Tags vs Formatting Tags

April 3, 2019

HTML4 classic formatting tags, vs modern HTML5 interpretation of semantic tags.

HEADS UP: We’re answering what may be considered a beginner’s question so if you’re super busy and you already know the answer to this, feel free to move on. But there’s a little nerd history lesson in it…

So, “what is the difference between strong vs. bold tags, and between EM(emphasized) vs. italic tags? To me, they look the same on a web page. What is the purpose of distinguishing between the two?”
Great question. Simple answer: it’s semantics NOW… “You can use either/or today; it doesn’t make a difference.”
Historically:  “when HTML was first invented there was no CSS, so they needed tags (a set of html tags), to allow web pages builders to add some styling to the page. ie: add italics, make certain texts bold, insert images, etc. So the early browser-makers … created a set of tags that were display tags: they allowed to change the look of things on the pages.”
As things evolved and HTML5 came along, the powers that be decided to give semantic meaning to the tags instead of having programmers go back and update/correct their previous work. Now, that being said there is absolute use in these semantic tags; for example those with accessibility issues like the seeing impaired will have a “reader” talk the page out and in that case, the reader will interpret paragraph tags, heading/footer tags,etc and it may become pretty useful.

Another use would be to target a very special audience or for very specific web application needs…but that’s another video…
Speaking of videos, please check this one out for a more in-depth history lesson with way more charisma than the typed word.
Also -shameless plug- Our web development course teaches you the infrastructure / history of these tags and how they operate. We like to go above and beyond -Check it out. Plus at the end of the video, some sweet summer heat and beach!! Enjoy!

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