HTML and CSS Reference
The Rise and Fall of XHTML
To keep this story short, the HTML language evolved from version 2.0 to 4.01, at which
point the original purpose of structuring the document was completely lost. The people in
charge of developing web standards, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), decided to
remove all stylistic markup from HTML and rewrite it completely by using XML syntax.
This new major revision was called XHTML 1.0.
The content of the XHTML 1.0 specification was identical to that of HTML 4.01; no new
elements or attributes were added. As a matter of fact all presentational tags and attributes
were removed, so XHTML 1.0 had fewer tags and attributes than its previous iteration.
The only major difference between XHTML 1.0 and HTML 4.01 was in the syntax of the
language. While HTML allowed authors complete freedom in how they structured their ele-
ments, XHTML required authors to follow the stricter rules of XML, encouraging authors to
use a single writing style. During this time period, web designers embraced the emergence
of web standards, so the stricter syntax of XHTML was viewed as a “best practice” for writ-
Note: The publication of XHTML 1.0 coincided with the rise of browser support for
CSS; therefore it was very easy to completely move all stylistic markup away from
the structure of the document.
Then the W3C tried to push XHTML toward an XML-based future. They published
XHTML 1.1 and moved toward XHTML 2, which would be a new, pure language that was
backwards compatible with neither existing web content nor previous versions of HTML.
The W3C were starting to formulate theoretically pure standards unrelated to the needs of
web designers and vendors who wanted emphasis placed on the creation of web applica-
tions. This caused a schism in the W3C itself, and the dissatisfied people formed their own
group, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).
From here the story becomes so convoluted and technical that we will just skip to the part
in which XHTML 2 never comes to fruition and instead the HTML5 specification becomes
the new official revision of the HTML language.