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Some concerns about the identity of the HTML language family and the relationship between its members.

From: Eduard Pascual <herenvardo@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 02:30:38 +0100
Message-ID: <6ea53250808211830o170bb51et85f37793e56d93ab@mail.gmail.com>
To: public-html-comments@w3.org

Greetings,

I have some concerns I'd wish to share with you that I feel should be
answered in order for the web communities to prepare themselves for
the future. I was planning to post these on separate topics, but there
is too much overlap between some of them to draw clear lines, so some
of my posts might be about broader topics than usual.

I'm conscious that I might be asking a lot of things, and most group
members might be too busy to answer them all; so I'll try to space my
postings leaving a few days among each topic I post (maybe with some
exceptions, for topics that are separate enough from each other).

***

The first issue is mostly conceptual, but if it isn't handled properly
it might harm the WWW even more than the <marquee> and <blink> tag did
together.

There is a lot of confusion out there about what HTML5 and XHTML2 are.
Sites like xhtml.com (on
http://xhtml.com/en/future/x-html-5-versus-xhtml-2/#next-markup-language
) state that "Both X/HTML 5 and XHTML 2 are competing to replace HTML
4 and XHTML 1. [...] and all the ingredients are in place for a
standards war." By the time this article was published, AFAIK (the
article doesn't show any publication date, but seems obvious from the
content), the HTML5 was still being developed exclusivelly by the
WHATWG; but now that the spec is part of the W3's work, such a
standards war would indeed be an internal war within the W3, which
would shake the very foundations of the WWW. If all the ingredients
for that war are really in place (and they indeed seem to be in
place), maybe it would be a good idea to cool them down before the war
is ignited.

Currently, the section at
http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/introduction.html#relationship0 states
that:
<< XHTML2 [XHTML2] defines a new HTML vocabulary with better features
for hyperlinks, multimedia content, annotating document edits, rich
metadata, declarative interactive forms, and describing the semantics
of human literary works such as poems and scientific papers.

>> However, it lacks elements to express the semantics of many of the non-document types of content often seen on the Web. For instance, forum sites, auction sites, search engines, online shops, and the like, do not fit the document metaphor well, and are not covered by XHTML2.

>> This specification aims to extend HTML so that it is also suitable in these contexts. >>

However, on http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/#xhtml2 it is stated that
"XHTML 2.0 is a markup language intended for rich, portable web-based
applications."

Furthermore, the W3C stated, in the press release at
http://www.w3.org/2007/03/html-pressrelease:
"Those design choices have led to XHTML 2.0 having an identity
distinct from HTML. With the chartering of the XHTML 2 Working Group,
W3C will continue its technical work on the language at the same time
it considers rebranding the technology to clarify its independence and
value in the marketplace."

contrasted against the current XHTML2 draft at

"The very first version of HTML was designed to represent the
structure of a document, not its presentation. Even though
presentation-oriented elements were later added to the language by
browser manufacturers, HTML is at heart a document structuring
language. XHTML 2 takes HTML back to these roots, by removing all
presentation elements"

does mean that bringing the language back to its very roots and
purpose led it to have a distinct identity?
As I perceive it, HTML strayed from its identity when all the
presentational stuff was added, and XHTML 2 is actually rescuing the
true identity of the hypertext markup language.

Since XHTML2 is an extensible hyper-text markup language that keeps
the original spirit of HTML (representing documents and marking up
their structure), and HTML5 aims to handle the "new" needs (compared
to the need of representing structured documents) of modern web
applications, wouldn't it make more sense to rebrand HTML5 rather than
XHTML2?

***

Returning to the HTML5's quote:

"However, it lacks elements to express the semantics of many of the
non-document types of content often seen on the Web. For instance,
forum sites, auction sites, search engines, online shops, and the
like, do not fit the document metaphor well, and are not covered by
XHTML2."
Can you provide some example of what HTML5 provides that XHTML2
doesn't cover? I have really tried to search for some myself, but I
have been completelly unable to find any.

***

I really want to believe that indeed these two languages are aimed to
different purposes, rather than competing for the same spot as some
suggest. Is there enough cooperation between this group and the XHTML
WG, so to ensure that the specs do not overlap more than strictly
needed, and that they can be integrated in the contexts where it might
be appropriate to do so?

Last, but not least (actually, I think these two are the most important issues):
Eventually, both HTML5 and XHTML2 should become W3C Recommendations
(that's the main purpose of the process, isn't it?). Assumming that
both specifications have different purposes, as stated, then a clear
definition of such purposes will be needed: at a certain point,
webmasters engaging in new web projects will face the question "Which
spec should I use?". Which criteria should guide this choice?

And, after figuring out the most suitable language, should we expect
enough support for both so we can indeed make a choice, or will major
vendors block us by only supporting one of these formats?
(Please, note that while the last question can be related to specific
cases, I would consider unfair to ask specifically about such cases,
and I hope answers can be given from a generic approach).

Regards,
Herenvardo,
Software and web developer.

PS: I bet I'm missing some detail somewhere (I always do, and that's
been a quite lengthy message). Feel free to point out any issue about
the message itself if you feel it's appropriate, or ask what you need
if I didn't express something clearly enough (I have the ability to
express myself as well as a page-less book); but I'd also appreciate
if you can provide some answers to these concerns. I'm really worried
about the future of the web, and I wouldn't like to see aberrations
like <marquee><blink><h1><b>READ THIS!!!!</b></h1></blink></marquee>
ever again (yes, I had seen things like that, and even worse).
Received on Saturday, 23 August 2008 13:29:39 GMT

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