W3C Issues Updated XHTML 1.0 Spec to Public

The W3C has updated its proposed XHTML 1.0 hybrid standard marrying XML and HTML. See how it could affect development.

Tags: XHTML, XML, Developers, User Agents, HTML, XSL, Standard,

The W3C Recommendation document for XHTML 1.0: Extensible HyperText Markup Language is now a formal "W3C Recommendation" and is open for public review and comment. XHTML specifies the ways in which the reformulation of HTML 4 document and/or application as an XML 1.0 document/application will be accomplished; as well as the semantics (naming) of the elements and their attributes. W3C defines XHTML 1.0 as a "reformulation of HTML in XML, giving the rigor of XML to Web pages."

W3C has high hopes for XHTML. "By migrating to XHTML today, content developers can enter the XML world with all of its attendant benefits, while still remaining confident in their content's backward and future compatibility," the W3C said in its latest update. Developers can also go to
XHTML.org for more information and background on the W3C proposal.

XHTML - Is it appropriate for your Project?

Among the inducements for using XHTML 1.0, W3C lists the following benefits to developers:


  • XHTML documents are XML conforming. As such, they are readily viewed, edited, and validated with standard XML tools.
  • XHTML documents can be written to operate as well or better than they did before in existing HTML 4-conforming user agents as well as in new, XHTML 1.0 conforming user agents.
  • XHTML documents can utilize applications (e.g. scripts and applets) that rely upon either the HTML Document Object Model or the XML Document Object Model.
  • As the XHTML family evolves, documents conforming to XHTML 1.0 will be more likely to interoperate within and among various XHTML environments.

  • Technically, W3C defines XHTML as a family of current and future document types and modules that reproduce, subset, and extend HTML 4. XHTML family document types are XML based, and ultimately are designed to work in conjunction with XML-based user agents. It is intended to be used as a language for content that is both XML-conforming and, if some simple guidelines are followed, operates in HTML 4 conforming user agents.

    XHTML Developer Benefits

    On a broader scale, in fact, the W3C envisions three key architectural and tools benefits:


  • To give developers a standard way to accommodate new markup elements and/or extensions through: (a) the use of XHTML modules; and (b) techniques for developing new XHTML-conforming modules. [These modules will permit the combination of existing and new feature sets when developing content and when designing new user agents.]

  • To provide interoperability options with Internet-based data through a new user agent and document profiling mechanism. Using this mechanism, servers, proxies, and user agents will be able to perform best effort content transformation.

  • To get your XML docuemnts to work with XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Langauge), which consists of three parts: XSLT (XSL Transformations): a language for transforming XML documents, Xpath, (XSL Path Language) an expression language used by XSLT to access or refer to parts of an XML document.; and XSL Formatting Objects: an XML vocabulary for specifying formatting semantics.

  • With all of these abilities, and compliance with other standard XML tools, the W3C said, "Ultimately, it will be possible to develop XHTML-conforming content that is usable by any XHTML-conforming user agent."

    Translation: Easier (if not ubiquitious) document sharing among XML/web services-enabled computers -- both web and legacy. This, in turn., could further reduce the amount of work developers would need to invest in coding for "staging" and "middleware" projects now often required for such integration and document sharing.

    More Resources on XHTML

  • With the W3C on the brink of XHTML standards adoption, perhaps you'll think it's time to get serious about learning more about XHTML. Check out the latest additions to W3Schools for XHTML tutorials and books. They even offer a quick, and cute, 20 question-quiz to help you get your bearings on XHTML before you start.

  • The W3C's Document Formats domain offers a very brisk run through of the three elemnts of XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language), including its 3 components: XSLT, Xpath and XSL Formatting Objects vocabulary.

  • Sven Heinicke, a GNU/Linux developer (among other talents) at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, N.J., has a very breezy XHTML overview in WebMonkey of why a developer should care about the new standard. Heinicke follows it with a more in-depth 7-part look. While it dates from last fall, it remains one of the best 15-minute reads IDN has seen on how developers should navigate through the coming XHTML standards.