W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-validator@w3.org > June 2003

Questions about XHTML

From: Clint Brooks <CBROOKS@nwacc.cc.ar.us>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 10:46:00 -0500
Message-ID: <21CA91D4C4D0D611937400065B88382B03124590@mercery.nwacc.cc.ar.us>
To: "'www-validator@w3.org'" <www-validator@w3.org>

I was wondering if someone could provide me with some technical information
on the XHTML standard.  I am not a programmer but work in technology with
end users.

Some of the great advantages of the original HTML standard were the ease of
use and the flexibility with which the code could be used.  This enabled
non-programmers and non-computer experts to engage in their first publishing
experience and as you are all aware opened up a new era of communication.
The simplicity and flexibility of the standard was a key element of that,
along with the fact that web pages could be designed with the bare minimum
of software: a text editor.

From my experience with XHTML so far, it seems that any such ideals are
being left behind in a rush to recapture web publishing in the traditional
software paradigm.  The changes to the standard, particularly in the basic
flexibility of the way in which it could be written as well as fundamental
changes to some of the basic HTML tags, seem ill considered at best and
conspiratorial at worst.  I have heard more than a few times the suggestion
that the changes are in part an attempt to force web authors to rely on
software companies overpriced web editing software to be able to keep up, a
suggestion I hope is inaccurate but one that carries a good deal of weight
given the disinterest the W3C seems to have with the average person's
ability to continue to use the language unaided.

The questions then have to do with trying to understand why certain changes
in the standard have been chosen.  For example:  Why force authors using
XHTML to artificially "close" otherwise straightforward tags such as <br>
and <img> with <br /> and <img /> when the tags themselves are singular in
usage?  It is not adequate enough to suggest the need to "migrate" XHTML to
other standards.  As the central language of the WWW it would seem that
other systems and hardware that wish to take advantage of web communications
should migrate to the web standard, especially given that the current usage
of these media as web communication tools is a small percentage of the
overall usage.

Flexibility is another issue of course.  The most obvious example of the
W3C's insistence on "cleaning up" usage for example is the requirement that
<p> tags be closed.  For years a sizeable number of users (one might argue a
majority) used the <p> tag much in the way the <br> tag was used, in order
to create a full line space break.  The official use of the <p> was consider
by many users to be simple excess, especially considering the need for
smaller, faster loading pages at the time (a problem that is still with us
today due to addendums such as lengthy CSS and attached scripts, cookies,
and other programming fodder).  It would seem that the need for a simple tag
to create the kind of line break the <p> was being used for was clear, and
much more a priority of the average user than the extended <p> tag. (In all
honesty if a substitute for a single use <p> tag exists, I'm not aware of
it, though would be happy to be educated as to what it is, even at the risk
of looking like a newbie.)

There are many other criticisms that I have read of the XHTML standard, ones
I'm sure this list are familiar with and that are too detailed for me to
address. Suffice to say that I see the day coming when users will be forced
to rely on Microsoft or Adobe in order to create the most basic webpages
that meet standards as the changes in HTML/XHTML keep coming.  I hope some
of you can offer some hope that is not the case, or if not at least provide
legitimate and sound reasons why it must be so.


Clint Brooks, M.Ed.
"Flames ignored, thoughts welcomed"
Received on Friday, 6 June 2003 11:46:19 UTC

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