HTML 5 : We don’t need no XHTML
Rules are meant to be broken they say, and when it comes to web standards looks like the same holds true. XML was set to be everywhere, even influencing one of the web’s pilars — HTML — in favor of XHTML….fast forward to summer 2007, and being retro is in : HTML has been revived as HTML 5. What does this mean ? What does it offer ? I’ll try and recap the web’s markup evolution and proposed future in this entry.
At the time XHTML’s spec was announced by the W3C, moving from HTML’s v.4.01 over to the XML based XHTML seemed like a natural step, heck I even wrote on article on performing such a task HTML 4.01 to XHTML 1.1 , but in hindsight, the appearance of HTML 5 is a resounding “we don’t want no XHTML” or a more polite “we’d rather stick to what we know” from browser vendors and developers, with the almost guaranteed side effect : end users suffering at the expense of standards.
Recapping the historical background, XHTML was seen as a good successor to HTML 4.01 for various reasons, but the main reasons I personally saw were the following, in order of importance:
HTML had mixed-in layout behaviours, allowing attributes like align, bgcolor and width to be placed directly inside markup. XHTML in effect enforced a cleaner content/layout separation, forcing designers/developers to use CSS for all their layout requirements.
Another reason behind the XHTML push was that it would theoretically allow the delivery of this XML type markup — properly closed, nested and devoid of layout behaviours — to any type of device, not just a browser.
And yet another reason was that HTML was based on the older and more immense SGML language, where as XHTML was to be based on XML, which provided a more simplified rework of SGML.
In hindsight once again — and isn’t it always 20/20 vision
CSS adoption was huge by itself, so much in fact, that even though HTML 4.01 allowed layout attributes — align, width, bgcolor, border — or <font> to be used, it soon become just common to use CSS, making XHTML adoption simply unnecessary to enforce content/layout separation.
Delivery of XHTML to multiple devices was a good idea, in an era when multiple markups — like WML or HDML — were required to deliver content on account of network latency issues around HTML’s payload. But WiFi and a few wireless generations later, we have many devices that can consume HTML, such as iPhone’s with rich HTML email clients.
And the SGML foundations proved to be a moot point, while SGML is in fact complex when compared to XML, HTML and XHTML were mere sub-sets for both specs, so for practical purposes were both evolved from seemed to make no difference.
So here you have HTML revived as HTML 5 under none other than a W3C working group. ( NOTE: Although you should be aware that behind the scenes, much of this HTML 5 lobbying and battle was undergone by WHATG [Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group] , a group formed by Apple, Mozilla and Opera…do a web search if you are interested at the time and events it took for the W3C to actually revive HTML 4.01 and simply incorporate HTML 5 as the WHATG set it out to be).
So here is a link to the HTML 5 Working Draft for your review, and my own personal list of relevant features :
Document Object Model (DOM) : Navigating and using the DOM has never been natural in browser environments, given its historical background. The appearance of AJAX has only made DOM more critical to navigate, and with it, HTML 5 will address many of the headaches faced when using the DOM.
Forms : Lets face it, forms are busted in their current state. Coming to HTML 5, native data validation, support for elements like date, number, range and email, not to mention, improved file upload mechanisms.
More funky tags: <p> and <div> are old, so how about more tags for what has become common nature on the web : <article>, <dialog>,<video>,<canvas> and <progress>, all coming in HTML 5.
The bad news : Everything is pretty much on paper as far as new features are oncerned, so don’t hold your breath as to when you will see this supported in Firefox, Opera or mmhh..Internet Explorer!
The good news: Somebody is paying attention, even if its taken years of listening and it will take more years to make it a reality. Someday you may have access to all these wonders HTML 5 offers, a sign of relief for those who never seemed to forget good old HTML.
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