Moving toward XHTML

HTML is an evolving technology—so much so that it will probably evolve itself out of existence. Now don’t panic: All technology—even widely successful technology such as HTML—moves on to greener pastures. The key to this transition—as these series of articles will stress continually—is planning for that inevitable transition to make it as smooth as possible.

XHTML is the planned successor to HTML. The current W3C recommendation is XHTML 1.0; additional recommendations are currently under. Because XHTML 1.0 utilizes the feature set of HTML 4.0 (and 4.0.1), with some general modification you can use it in existing browsers.

Why should you be interested in XHTML? Consider the following:

  • As with any technology, there will always be new ways to manipulate data. This seems like an obvious point, but it is especially critical in regard to the Web, given that Web sites are often the front-end interfaces to many larger data manipulation processes and technologies (such as database integration with Web sites). A goal of XHTML is to be modular, so that new data manipulation techniques and agents can be integrated more easily into existing Web structures.
  • With the continuing popularity of portable devices (such as Pads and cell phones) or otherwise non-traditional Web accessibility devices, there is a growing need for a standardized method of presenting Web content to these various devices. XHTML presents a new level of interoperability in presenting Web content across various access devices. Indeed, the working draft of XHTML 2.0 is geared toward these portable devices.

Again, the evolving nature of technology is inevitable, and HTML is no exception. As you move through these serial of articles, I’ll be sure to point out the emerging XHTML standards and feature sets that complement traditional HTML.

This short introductory article’s purpose was threefold—first, to familiarize you with the evolving nature of HTML; second, to make you aware of the organization (the W3C) that does a large percentage of the work in suggesting how HTML should evolve; and third, to stress that functionality requirements can and do dictate the different utilizations of HTML across different Web sites (such as a corporate intranet versus an elementary school Web site).

The following articles will focus specifically on the various attributes and features of HTML, and will show—where appropriate—their XHTML successors. Additionally, the chapters will provide links to W3C and other resources that might help you better understand or work with the particular features being described. For example, there is a tremendous amount of information regarding cascading style sheets discussed in on the W3C Web site, including documentation and open-source applications that help you work with them.

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