Called hypertext markup language, HTML ain’t very daunting if you start easy.Think of a page from a textbook from your high school days.

Now imagine that it all had to be typed out on an old-time typewriter, and you couldn’t make some things bold and some things italicized and couldn’t separate the paragraphs in any way — everything is just one long string of unremarkable text.

Now, imagine that you could type little thingies into that page so that when someone looks at it, they see the heading and the subheadings, the discrete paragraphs, the bold, the italic, the graphs and the pictures.

That’s what HTML does. The “thingies” are called tags. Tags generally come in pairs, one to say “start doing this”, and one to say “stop doing that”. Your browser (Mozilla, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc) knows how to interpret the tags.

Reading from the left to right, there will be one tag that says “start making this text bold” and then, after a word or a sentence, there’s another tag that says “stop bolding now”.

There’s all sorts of tags, for “This is a header” “here’s a paragraph” “this text is a link to”, and “stick an image right here”… and many, many more.

To save space and keep things simple, the tags are standard and as brief as possible. Instead of saying “make this bold”, we put in a tag, and instead of saying “stop being bold”, we use a tag.

The reason it works is that the consortium of folks who develop HTML and the software folks who make browsers have mostly (kinda) agreed on what little tag means what. If they disagreed, the browsing public would not be able to see anything except what their own little browser was trained to see. (Which is why really old browsers make designers tear out our hair — they’re behind the times, and haven’t been trained to read the newest tags)