The W3C has announced that XHTML 2 will be dropped when the Working Group’s charter expires on 31 December 2009.
The first W3C XHTML 2 draft specification appeared in 2002 and it was last updated in 2006. The project was an ambitious re-working of the language of the web. It sought to address the inconsistencies, banish obvious presentational tags, and implement clear and concise mark-up. Some concepts were excellent, e.g.
- Any tag could be made a link by assigning an
<a>was retained, but would have become redundant).
<section>tags controlled the document structure and hierarchy. A single
<h>tag could denote headings at any level — the author would not need to manually manage
- A new
<nl>navigational list tag was introduced.
- RDFa allowed semantics to be annotated in the mark-up.
- The language was modularized so extensions could be added.
Several XHTML 2 recommendations have have been ported to the HTML 5 specification.
Unfortunately, XHTML 2 was possibly too revolutionary. It was too different, too strict, offered little backward-compatibility, and was criticized for not supporting real-world coding practices. The specification was never completed (few are) and no major browser vendor made a serious attempt to implement the standard (IE still does not support any flavor of XHTML served as XML).
How will this announcement affect XHTML developers? It won’t — not unless you have been developing XHTML 2 solutions in the faint hope of eventual browser support. XHTML 1.0 and 1.1 are still an implemented standard in most browsers and XHTML 5 will support the strict syntax, lowercase tags, and trailing slashes you want to use.
The death of XHTML 2 has one major benefit: additional resources can be allocated to HTML 5. Browser vendors and developers can now work toward a single unified specification. We hope.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.