HTML and CSS Reference
In-Depth Information
Whereas XML is extensible, XHTML offers a finite set of predefined elements to choose from—all the
same elements that were available in HTML 4.01, in fact. The only real differences between HTML 4.01
and XHTML 1.0 are stylistic, with just a few more rules dictating how XHTML must be written. HTML is a
lax language designed to be tolerant of minor transgressions in syntax, whereas XML is fussy and
demands strict adherence to its rules. XHTML simply applies the strictness of XML to HTML, resulting in a
hardened set of rules for authoring a document. An XHTML document is essentially just an HTML
document written to a more exacting standard.
It was also right around the time XHTML came on the scene that web designers and developers began a
serious campaign to improve the state of the Web, encouraging their clients and colleagues to develop in
accordance with web standards, and pressuring browser makers to correctly support those same
standards in their products. XHTML, with its stricter rules of conformance, was the darling of the web
standards movement because it encouraged authors to pay closer attention to how they constructed their
The Web Standards Project (WaSP) was founded in 1998 in reaction to the inconsistent
browser behaviors and unsustainable development practices of the era. This group led
the charge in what became “the web standards movement,” promoting a new set of best
practices for web designers and developers, ultimately changing the way web sites are
made and improving the state of the Web, for authors and users alike. WaSP continues
to work with web authors, educators, browser vendors, and standards bodies to advance
and promote web standards. Their website is .
Meanwhile, the W3C immediately began work on XHTML 2.0. No simple reformulation of existing
standards, this was going to be a radical overhaul of the language from the ground up, a whole new
approach to authoring documents for the Web. That was over a decade ago. The XHTML 2.0 specification
stagnated and eventually stalled, while the Web continued to move inexorably forward, innovating on top
of a foundation that was beginning to show its age. By the mid-2000s it became clear to some that XHTML
2.0 was perhaps not the best way forward after all, and it was time to re-examine and refresh good old
Out with the X, in with the 5
A splinter group formed within the W3C in 2004 and began to craft new addendums to HTML. They called
themselves the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG, ) and their
side projects were dubbed Web Apps 1.0 and Web Forms 2.0, both meant to be extensions of the stale
HTML 4.01 spec. Eventually these two projects were united in a new fledgling specification: HTML5.
In due time the W3C also came to accept that XHTML 2.0 wasn't working out as planned, and recognized
that this new HTML5 business was something worth paying attention to. The W3C started the process of
adopting and formalizing the work produced by WHATWG. And so HTML5 gained official status as the
next HTML standard.
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