Monday, January 30th, 2006
Edd Dumbill got down and wrote a two-part series on The future of HTML
In this two-part series, Edd Dumbill examines the various ways forward for HTML that Web authors, browser developers, and standards bodies propose. This series covers the incremental approach embodied by the WHATWG specifications and the radical cleanup of XHTML proposed by the W3C. Additionally, the author gives an overview of the W3C’s new Rich Client Activity.
In Part 1, Edd focuses primarily on two specifications being developed by WHATWG: Web Applications 1.0 (HTML5) and Web Forms 2.0.
WhatWG and HTML 5
The first part discusses the ideas that came out of the pragmatic WhatWG:
- HTML 5
- Web Forms 2.0
The second part discusses the ideas from the W3C group:
- XHTML 2
- Web APIs
- Web Application Formats
Edd finishes comparing the two:
In these two articles, I’ve presented the salient points of both WHATWG’s HTML 5 and the W3C’s XHTML 2.0. The two initiatives are quite different: The grassroots-organised WHATWG aims for a gently incremental enhancement of HTML 4 and XHTML 1.0, whereas the consortium-sponsored XHTML 2.0 is a comprehensive refactoring of the HTML language.
While different, the two approaches are not incompatible. Some of the lower-hanging fruit from the WHATWG specifications is already finding implementation in browsers, and some of WHATWG’s work is a description of de facto extensions to HTML. Significant portions of this, such as XMLHttpRequest, will find its way into the W3C’s Rich Client Activity specifications. WHATWG also acts as a useful catalyst in the Web standards world.
Looking further out, the XHTML 2.0 approach offers a cleaned-up vocabulary for the Web where modular processing of XML, CSS, and ECMAScript is rapidly becoming the norm. Embedded devices such as phones and digital TVs have no need to support the Web’s legacy of messy HTML, and are free to take unburdened advantage of XHTML 2.0 as a pure XML vocabulary. Additionally, the new features for accessibility and internationalization make XHTML 2.0 the first XML document vocabulary that one can reasonably describe as universal, and thus a sound and economic starting point for many markup-based endeavors.
As with its past, the future of HTML will be varied — some might say messy — but I believe XHTML 2.0 will ultimately receive widespread acceptance and adoption. If it were the only XML vocabulary on the Web, there might be some question, but as browsers gear up to deal with SVG, XForms, and other technologies, XHTML 2.0 starts to look like just another one of those XML-based vocabularies.
What really matters of course, is implementations. Specifically, what will IE implement. An IE with canvas and full SVG support would be fantastic… but maybe not likely :(
Posted by Dion Almaer at 9:43 am