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Re: XHTML 2.0 considered harmful

From: Jonny Axelsson <jax@opera.no>
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2003 01:36:09 +0100
To: "www html w3.org" <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <opri2hajfkiaf507@localhost>

On Tue, 14 Jan 2003 02:56:48 -0800, Tantek Çelik <tantek@cs.stanford.edu> 

> After having had my own misgivings about the goals and certainly some of 
> the specifics of XHTML2, and having first read Daniel's post, and now 
> Mark's, I think there needs to be a serious reconsideration of XHTML2 as 
> an effort at all.
> And for anyone who was offended by the title of this post, please read 
> this: <http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/comment/chech.html>

Score one for Eric Meyer.

That said, I think it is healthy to discuss whether any new specification 
has a rationale, and that discussion should preferably not take place among 
the authors. I am one of the authors and thus disqualified, but I believe 
XHTML 2.0 is a worthwhile effort.

I do not agree with the interpretation of "While the ancestry of XHTML 2 
comes from HTML 4, XHTML 1.0, and XHTML 1.1, it is not intended to be 
backward compatible with its earlier versions." that is wielded around the 
net. The goal isn't, and should not be, to make Yet Another Hypertext 
Markup Language. Backwards incompatibility is to be avoided, change is bad.

But this is the first major overhaul since HTML 4, made in 1997-98. Not 
everything that seemed like a good idea at the time has proven to be so. If 
something didn't work out as intended, it might have been the intention 
that was faulty, or it might have been the specification. Experiences 
during those six years of use should also have a role. I like the approach 
of looking at current frustrations, as with [1]. But fundamentally changes 
should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. For that reason I prefer 
deprecation to outright removal. So for instance 'strong' might be a 
mistake, even so, it is better to say "it might not be there in XHTML 3.0" 
than say "please remove your <strong> tags".

Much of the "XHTML 2.0 is an utter failure and waste of time" line of 
argument boils down to "we don't want to lose the style attribute. In my 
opinion, this issue isn't of that great an importance, but the argument by 
DOM [2] bears some weight with me.

In another direction, it is noticeable that proposed elements that are 
highly semantic and precise keep being avoided. That too can make sense, 
specific elements are rarely generic enough for a format that is used 
practically everywhere, HTML isn't DocBook. Even so, an element like the 
proposed 'note' [3] seems to fit in, and has a history of not quite making 
it at least as far back as HTML 3.0.

[1] <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-html/2003Jan/0204.html>
[2] <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-html/2003Jan/0211.html>
[3] <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-html/2003Jan/0173.html>

Jonny Axelsson,
Web Standards,
Opera software
Received on Wednesday, 15 January 2003 19:38:24 UTC

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