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By Noah | July 14, 2009

Awhile ago I posted a pointer to Sam Ruby’s efforts to unify XHTML and HTML 5.  Indeed, lots of people have considered lots of ways of getting the best of both of these technologies, but the net result  is that W3C has now decided to focus exclusively on HTML 5 as the specification for future versions of HTML.  Work on XHTML is, mostly, being discontinued.

This decision by W3C is a very big deal.  HTML is the key content standard for the Web, and the W3C has chosen a direction for its future.  Although there has been lots of politics and controversy relating to HTML, and although there are aspects of the current HTML 5 draft that I’m not fond of, I think it’s good that W3C is focusing it’s effort on one technology and on one “brand”.  Users are confused when there are two flavors of HTML to chose from.   Now there’s one clear path forward, and it’s HTML 5.   The W3C has published a very interesting FAQ about these new plans and their implications.  If you build Web applications or if you are interested in the future of Web technology, the FAQ is well worth reading.

Although some of the work currently being done under the auspices of the XHTML working group will continue in other W3C groups, the XHTML working group itself is wrapping up, and work on specifications like XHTML 2.0 and XHTML modularization will cease.  HTML 5 will still be usable with XML tooling, at least to some degree.  Specifically, the HTML 5 specification will provide an optional XML-compatible format for “serializing” HTML.  This will be in addition to the more conventional serializations of HTML, in which tags (e.g. <p>) aren’t necessarily matched by closing tags (</p>), etc.

There are many interesting and very important questions that remain unresolved, such as whether and how to provide for distributed extensibility in HTML.   The FAQ gives an overview of some of them.

Topics: Web, Internet, Computing | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “HTML 5”

  1. Benjamin Smedberg Says:
    July 14th, 2009 at 7:42 PM

    XHTML is not being discontinued. Only the XHTML working group is being discontinued. The HTML5 specification has an XML serialization of HTML.

  2. Noah Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    I wrote in the original posting:

    > HTML 5 will still be usable with XML
    > tooling, at least to some degree.
    > Specifically, the HTML 5 specification
    > will provide an optional XML-compatible
    > format for “serializing HTML.

    Benjamin, isn’t that exactly the point you’re asking me to make? It’s already there, in paragraph 3.

    > Work on XHTML is, mostly, being discontinued.

    I believe that’s true. The XML serialization that will be in HTML 5 will likely not be called XHTML, and quite likely won’t build on other aspects of XHTML like the particular DTDs, use of XHTML modularization, etc. So, as I said, work on HTML in XML will continue, and work on selected technologies that were under the auspices of the XHTML working group will continue, but as the W3C FAQ states:

    “Work will stop on these documents (likely to be published as Group Notes):

    * XHTML 2.0
    * CURIE
    * XFrames
    * HLink
    * XHTML+MathML+SVG Profile
    * XHTML Modularization 1.0 Second Edition”

  3. Henri Sivonen Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    “The XML serialization that will be in HTML 5 will likely not be called XHTML”

    Why wouldn’t the XML serialization of HTML5 be called XHTML5?

  4. Noah Says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    Henri Sivonen wrote:

    > Why wouldn’t the XML serialization of HTML5 be called XHTML5?

    Hey, Henri, I didn’t realize you were following my blog. Great to see you here.

    Regarding your question: um, yes, I suppose on reflection you’re right. Frankly, I had just assumed that XHMTL had come to be used as the brand for that which has, at least for now, been put down: I.e. a parallel development track for HTML, heavily invested in namespace-based extensibility, etc. I agree, I spoke to soon. There is at least the opportunity to call the XML serialization of HTML 5 something like XHTML 5.

    I do think it’s fair to say that XHTML as we’ve known it was driven by a somewhat different set of priorities and perspectives than HTML 5 (namespace-based distributed extensibility, etc.) So, I stand by my claim that, at least for the moment, the move by W3C to stop work on XHMTL 2.0 is significant. I take your point that what results from the HTML 5 work may turn out to include something called “XHTML 5”. If XHTML 5 turns out to provide a smooth migration path from XHMTL 1.0 in more than name, so much the better. Thanks!

  5. Noah Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    What Henri didn’t point out, and what I should have known but didn’t notice until recently is that the HTML 5 draft says:

    “The second concrete syntax uses XML, and is known as “XHTML5.”

    As noted above, I tend to associate the term “XHTML5” with a variety of mechanisms that HTML 5 either does not have or de-emphasizes, but I can see why XHMTL5 is a reasonable choice for the name anyway.


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