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RE: XHTML and MIME (was: IBM Position Statement on XForms and Web Forms 2.0)

From: Doug Schepers <doug.schepers@vectoreal.com>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006 18:29:55 -0400
To: <public-appformats@w3.org>, <www-forms@w3.org>, <www-archive@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20060831222957.F3FE711E30B@postalmail-a4.dreamhost.com>


Having attempted to dispassionately describe the positions of both sides (if
there are only two sides, I want to state my own opinion.

I fall into the latter camp (obviously), and hold that XML in all its
flavors (XHTML, SVG, XForms, etc.) is preferable to being chained to legacy
content based on a single transitory format (HTML).  I am not alone in
thinking that HTML is not a suitable base for going forward, unless it is
the XML characterization of XHTML.

Taking into account that content is overwhelmingly being generated by
authoring tools, once those tools are updated to create conforming content
(which I think they will, as a result of market pressures), then this brief
hiccup of forward momentum (stalled by the bursting bubble of Web1.0) will
quickly be forgotten.  Old content will still work, since it will be served
with the older MIME Type, but new content will move on.

If necessary, perhaps an errata to XHTML, or a different approach to
identifying XHTML, could resolve this on the level of technicalities.
Modern browsers are evolving rapidly, and surely they can be adapted to best
serve the future.


Doug Schepers wrote:
| Hi-
| There seems to be a major divide between people who believe that XHTML
| cannot or should not be used on the Web (largely because IE 
| does not yet
| understand it), and those that believe it can and should.
| It is this fundamental schism that must be resolved before we 
| can all reach
| a solution to this current debate that we are happy with.  
| I'm going to
| outline the debate as I see it, but if I have missed the 
| subtleties of some
| argument, it is through an error and not malice.
| Ian Hickson, the champion of the first camp, has outlined his 
| position [1]
| in a paper that seems to be the seminal claim for the notion 
| that XHTML
| cannot be served with the "text/html" MIME Type.  This paper 
| is often cited,
| but doesn't discuss content negotiation.  Ian has 
| substantiated and expanded
| his claim with a study of existing Web content (which he performed at
| Google), that seems to indicate that even content which is 
| meant to be XHTML
| (regardless of the MIME Type) is in the main not valid or 
| well-formed (IIRC,
| though I don't know how that compares with the 
| validity/well-formedness of
| existing HTML content).  The conclusion seems to be that XHTML, and by
| extension XML, is suboptimal, and that the path forward on 
| the Web should be
| based on HTML, which is viewable in legacy browsers (i.e. IE).
| The other camp believes that the pragmatic benefits of serving XHTML
| outweigh the technicalities described by Ian.  They believe that the
| proliferation of XML-based tools and UAs, and the more 
| extensible nature of
| XML as regards namespaces and mixed content, as well as other 
| benefits of
| XML, are more compelling than the current state of some 
| browsers, which are
| subject to change.  The practicalities of this approach are 
| described by the
| Web Standards Project [2], which explicitly resolves the MIME 
| Type issue via
| content negotiation or a relaxed MIME Type.  Ian's larger 
| claim that even if
| served with the correct MIME Type, much existing content will 
| largely still
| not be viewable with existing browsers is not addressed by 
| this argument,
| but is presumed to be a transitional phenomenon.  
| Thoughts?  Did I correctly frame the debate?
| [1] http://www.hixie.ch/advocacy/xhtml 
| [2] http://www.webstandards.org/learn/articles/askw3c/sep2003/ 
| Regards-
| Doug
Received on Thursday, 31 August 2006 22:30:14 UTC

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