Sing with me! (Midi backing track):
Goodbye XHTML 2, though no-one ever used you at all
you had the grace to hold yourself
when all around you had a fighting chance of getting implemented.
And it seems to me that you lived your life pissing in the wind…
The W3C has pulled the plug on the XHTML 2 specification. This was a philosophically pure specification that was so backwardly incompatible that it nearly deprecated the
img element. But this incompatibility, the draconian error handling that XML requires and the fact that XHTML 2 was for documents and ignored web applications doomed it to failure as a method for delivering content to browsers.
What does this mean to you?
Your current XHTML 1.x sites still continue working (except in IE, if you serve them as XML rather than HTML).
You wanna use XML? Then use XML. For those interested in HTML 5, I draw your attention to an article that I presciently wrote yesterday on XHTML 5, for those who worry unnecessarily that XML has been killed.
HTML 5 took some good ideas from XHTML 2 – the idea of deriving the “level” of a heading from its context, although it preserves using
h6 for backwards compatibility rather than a generic
h element. XHTML 2 allowed “
href anywhere” so anything can be a link, and HTML 5 has a similar idea, although it preserves backwards compatibility by allowing the
a element to surround block-level elements. The XHTML 2 element
nl for navigation list is doubled in the HTML 5
nav element that wraps a
The main side-effect of the end of XHTML 2 is that its resources will now be given to HTML 5. It also adds to the pressure to include RDFa into HTML 5 (Microformats, being elements and classes, “work” already). Given that Google (the employers of the HTML 5 spec editor, Ian Hickson) and Yahoo are starting to use microdata, it’s almost certainly untenable to claim there are no use cases for it, and RDFa is already a W3C specification, albeit ugly to write and opaquely documented.
Further reading (with no singalongs)
- The W3C has published Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the future of XHTML for more information.
- Slideshow by Mike Smith on HTML 5 and XHTML 2.
- Henri Sivonen An Unnofficial Q&A about the Discontinuation of the XHTML2 WG
- Post by lead editor of XHTML specs
- Dave Baron of Mozilla: ex-HTML )(“the developers of XHTML… wanted to build a separate Web, of their own technology, designed “the right way.””)
- Manu Sporny on RDFa in HTML 5
- CNET article An epitaph for the Web standard, XHTML 2: “The Web has many masters, but the ones with final say over its nature are those who build it page by page.”