XHTML – Why?

XHTML – Why? basically says the only reason is so that HTML becomes valid XML.

I understand, of course, that this is an old argument, but in the intervening years all I’ve seen is that people have realised they can now use XPath on their web pages. Well, that’s just great.

This is a big turnaround for me, I was convinced that XHTML was going to help us smooth the transition between making websites completely User-Agent and device agnostic, as well as opening up HTML to manipulation by all the existing XML tools, but you know what? There are already a plethora of existing (and good) HTML parsers out there, so the “well-formed XML” argument falls on my deaf ears, and apart from the comparatively esoteric usage of XPath, no-one’s yet found a good use for these XML tools in manipulating XHTML (not in the least because most XML tools will pretty-print by default, and break your page in IE).

And far from XHTML being the panacea of cross-device websites, developers have discovered that properly separated content and presentation will allow their plain old HTML sites to be rendered just fine on mobile devices (not that most PDA apps, like Plucker don’t just scrape the content into their own format anyway). So where are the XHTML torch-bearers? What do they have to offer me? Why is my HTML site no longer good enough? Where is the next generation of browsers that will be able to make use of all this X-technology? XHTML – Why?

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2 thoughts on “XHTML – Why?”

  1. XHTML-MP is the big reason, this clumsy bundle of letters explains to me why XHMTL is good. There’s already far more mobile phones in people’s hands than browsers on computers, watch the mobile tide coming as those phones get smarter.

    Let’s face it, what is good about HTML? It’s just a broken, sloppy, hard-to-parse, format that seems to have been invented by someone told about SGML via a *long* series of Chinese whispers.

  2. Ah, now, I consider the XHTML Mobile Profile to be a bit of a wildcard in this, although not an actual exception.

    This diagram sums up my current understanding of what the XHTML-MP really is, but my question is “why is it based on xhtml?”. What benefits has XHTML provided that makes it easier to provide XHTML-MP rather than HTML-MP (this is the main query), and why do mobile devices not just support full HTML or XHTML (I suspect there’s a good answer to that)? The problem I have with XHTML-MP is, that like most v4 browsers, they’re going to try and parse and display invalid markup, despite what the XML spec says on the subject, and so they may as well use existing parsing if not rendering engines. In addition, XHTML-Basic is a mess. Or at least it was last time I looked at it. My experience was similar to that of Mark Pilgrim’s where he said “As I said, XHTML Basic has no basis in reality. Ignore it.”

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