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  1. #1

    Semantics and HTML.vs.XHTML

    There is a superheated discussion taking place at the reader comments section of Jefferey Zeldman's web site. This is another "You used to say XHTML, now what about turning to HTML" discussion that was surfaced recently.. I thought those of you who are interested in web design would be pulled in as well.

    I myself prefer using XHTML 1.1 for its strictness (to make sure I'm doing my job according to the book) but I have indicated my feelings very clear that XHTML and HTML5 are merely Document Types and not particular mark-up languages, and added that I recognized one language to fit into this description, which was the HTML itself.

    Let's do some glossary..

    HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the core markup language of the World Wide Web. The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) started work on the specification in June 2004 under the name Web Applications 1.0.As of October 2009, the specification is in the "Last Call" state at the WHATWG.

    Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, or XHTML, on the other hand,is a family of XML markup languages that mirror or extend versions of the widely used Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language in which web pages are written.

    While HTML (prior to HTML5) was defined as an application of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), a very flexible markup language framework, XHTML is an application of XML, a more restrictive subset of SGML. Because XHTML documents need to be well-formed, they can be parsed using standard XML parsers—unlike HTML, which requires a lenient HTML-specific parser.

    Differences of HTML5 from HTML 4.01/XHTML 1.x

    The following is a cursory list of differences and some specific examples.

    • New parsing rules oriented towards flexible parsing and compatibility; not based on SGML
    • Ability to use inline SVG and MathML in text/html
    • New elements – section, article, footer, audio, video, progress, nav, meter, time, aside, canvas
    • New types of form controls – dates and times, email, url, search
    • New attributes – ping (on a and area), charset (on meta), async (on script)
    • Global attributes (that can be applied for every element) – id, tabindex, hidden, data-* (custom data attributes)
    • Deprecated elements dropped – center, font, strike, frameset

    FYI - Jeffrey Zeldman is a renown lecturer and author on web design. His most recent book is titled Designing With Web Standards. Zeldman co-founded the Web Standards Project (WaSP), a group of professional website designers dedicated to disseminating and encouraging the use of the standards promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

    Zeldman is held to be one of a vanguard of proficient visual designers who have adopted and promoted the use of standards-based, cross-browser solutions to web design problems. In particular, he has sought to destroy the myth that accessible websites have to be ugly or apparently “undesigned.”

    His books and websites have helped promote a general improvement in the technical, visual design, usability and accessibility of websites, through the use of XHTML code and CSS.

    Apparently he's also the center of attention, he attracts negative reactions as well. Though not knowing him in person, I have appreciated how professionally he's been handling similar situations for about 12 years or so, which can be seen on his recent posts, and which I addressed to maturity rather than sole professionalism.

    I hope you've found this post useful,
    stay with us in MediaCollege

    Last edited by kunter; 27th Nov 2009 at 08:07.
    - kunter ilalan web designer
    follow him on twitter and on MediaCollege

  2. #2

    I've been saying I forgot sth but...

    For some reason I have omitted writing the address above.. here it is:

    You'll find the discussion "therein" unmatched for being highly interesting and educative from renown and the most controversial quarters of the geekiest web industry (+) media..

    Last edited by kunter; 29th Nov 2009 at 19:43. Reason: I always re-edit!
    - kunter ilalan web designer
    follow him on twitter and on MediaCollege

  3. #3

    Copying My final response to the above discussion - in case it does not show up there

    After all the posts I've read above I must say that I agreed with Billee D who had said;
    HTML started the race, XHTML took up the baton, now that the HTML5 is picking up

    Tantek had also done well by summerizing:
    And now we have HTML5, which, even in draft form, is in many ways stricter, more semantic, and frankly less buggy than HTML4.01 and XHTML1.x.

    For the rest of the part, the most part of what was written above apart with Zeldman's posts, I'm not buying any of them.. First, the time is changing, and it'll be 2011 or 2012 by the HTML5's official recommendation.. after so many debates, arguments, derived solutions and agreed changes on syntax we'll be in need of a new label to the renewed language... For all I know, this was chosen to become HTML5.

    Since the new definition will be covering much of our previous concerns with HTML, eliminating some of them - if not all of them, taking new steps to aceesible elements in rich media, the question is, shall we need another XHTML or sth? - THIS IS one different topic which, I believe, will not find enough supporters to argue and heat a debate.. In my opinion, and that of many people at the geeky quarters the answer is "NO.. we don't need another document type, unless MSIE or some over-active brains in Google do not change their minds and start pissing with independent browsers and new protocols..

    Days back to ECMA's early evolution, we had a similar fight and even I (though who the f I am) couldn't have seen the outcome. I was wearing a genuine Netscape sweatshirt or a hat on a formal suit and it was painful that MSIE won two wars - for a very lil' compromise, their browser became triumphant and MS became the power-horse spreading the internet usage and world-wide-web knowledge thought out the world.. yeah - I still carry the scars..

    With or without 'so called' designary folks or technical implementers, those unlucky majority who git stuck in between the two, have created so many beautiful web sites, informative web sites, Flash websites, movie websites, encyclopedic websites and as such coming to this day.. They have seldom involved in a stupid debate of "I am the butt you are the head WHICH one of us is more important?"

    Remember when your "elder brothers" or you had been struggling to find an empty spot to connect a BBS for only several hundred Kilobytes of information before the dawn time.. now the people have created all sorts of online presence "semantically" or not, by the help of only one language..

    We do not owe them to HTML - besides, which is not a language (for everybody - I'll explain) - In my not-really humble opinion, that is the http that we owe all of this... A set of rules for communication! That's it..

    And being designers, because we are humans, and humans are designers by nature, f the rest who don't fit in, HTML is also the protocol of ours for establishing a connection between information and its presentation .. the way of, the rules of how to present it to the public..

    Only for the technical implementers, because most of us are savvy humans, and all savvy humans with little wisdom must have a hand-in-hand experience (by now) to learn how to become technical implementers; therefore, HTML becomes a protocol and a language to these people while their productions in any of the DOCUMENT formats - either f XHTML or HTML3-4-5, have been a lot more meaningful, structured better - semantically stronger and in the end, more insightful than the works of others (the adobe_people / what_you_hurt_is_what_you'll_get people).

    In conclusion, HTML, in my understanding and interpretation over the years, is the rule we give part of the data a precedence (H1) over the others, or give them a correlation (LI), a validity(DEL), and of course, by all means, an APPEARANCE regardless of what DOCTYPE was being declared. HTML as a MARK-UP language, thus, *is* presentational from the viewpoint of information designers, but not because they had for us the elements like [B] or [I], but for gibing us an opportunity to control the flow of data and name them accordingly, so we start designing the flow of the information acceessibile and usable for humans and machines, before stylistically coloring them (and mis-labelling the structure as "now presentational")..


    + By the way; Tantek you did a great job with the - now I'm confidently relying on that as well.
    + Congrat's to Zeldman for [del]forging[/del] hosting such an educative discussion at his website )

    best regards
    Last edited by kunter; 29th Nov 2009 at 22:12. Reason: I'm always re-editing
    - kunter ilalan web designer
    follow him on twitter and on MediaCollege

  4. #4
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    That's a good read Kunter, well thought out and informative.

    I have to admit I was a little dismayed when HTML5 started becoming a serious option. Not because I have anything against it, but because I'd spent so much time trying to figure out the best doctype to use and eventually settling on XHTML 1.x (usually transitional, occasionally strict). I love the strictness of XHTML - removing the ambiguity of HTML felt like a huge step in the right direction.

    So then along comes HTML5. Some time ago I waded through a very long discussion at and came to the conclusion that HTML5 was probably the better option. Like many people I became disillusioned with the whole W3C thing. I felt like I'd been led up the garden path by supporting XHTML, a path that ended up going nowhere. Now after all my hard work converting many websites, it looked like I'd have to do the whole thing all over again. To rub salt in the wound, it seemed that much of the repairs would be changing my markup to how it was before I went over to XHTML. Perhaps I should have just stuck with HTML4.01 Strict.

    But then another factor came into the equation. I realised that pretty much all the third-party scripts I use are XHTML 1.x. For example, vBulletin (the software that drives this forum). If I move mediacollege over to HTML5, that means I have two different doctypes here. Of course I could hack vBulletin to use HTML5 but I've learned to minimize such hacks wherever possible - they tend to become a pain over time and it makes a lot of sense to stick to default configurations where possible.

    I looked through all the scripts I have on different sites and the process of migrating them to HTML5 seems too daunting.

    So I'm still fence-sitting. In the end I'm probably going to go with what other people decide - I'll likely change to HTML5 if/when the people who make the scripts I use decide to go that way. In the meantime I'll almost certainly stay with XHTML 1.x. I just won't feel as tech-trendy as I used to.
    Dave Owen

  5. #5
    I am listening Semantics first time and thank you because i got information about it because i read on your topic.
    Certified Packing Supplies in USA

  6. #6
    You got a nice domain name, with a nice all-around forum, focused at both video editing, filming, and programming/webdesign. All of which are topics of interest to me

    I wouldn't even consider to modify existing CMS solutions, like phpbb or vbullitin, unless something about them wasn't working as intended. When you develop your own solutions, then its easier to shift later. There ain't really any benefits for those using pre-made solutions, unless they expect to build on top of them.

    What really matters, is that your CMS serves it purpose, and in some cases, that its optimized for the search engines.

    Finally, don't worry about using multiple doctypes. Having one section of the site using HTML 4.01, and another using XHTML, wouldn't matter a tiny bit. I'm experimenting like that myself, currently i actually use the HTML5 doctype for the majority of my pages, without really using any of the new elements yet.

  7. #7
    Quote: BlueBoden
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    currently i actually use the HTML5 doctype for the majority of my pages,
    To be more correct, there is no document type (declarations) being called as "HTML5 doctype", instead, we have an HTML5 specification which is in draft model, and a series of available document type declarations.

    Once your web page on current display is constructed according to the name and specification of the attributes, the name spaces etc, regardless how many extra external content did you stack, they all become part of the "one", you have them rendered visually.. One another page is completely another episode.. We can't talk of a site unity here.

    As long as the transferred material and its medium is concerned, your httpd automatically chooses what kind of stream it is about to start, and to which port or what other software it should call for the process.

    In a recent Javascript related question I have responded with a valid HTML5 (two actually ). I suggest you study it.. You'll see that it is still HTML! because there is only HTML that matters, and the fashion (tabless web), the model (CSS), new trends (web 2.0), the revisions (HTML5) can take any other subtle names, which doesn't matter in the end.

    I have some other studies that I didn't have chance to either finish them or move them to here that exhibits extensive XML / XSLT usage instead of plain HTML, which was, way too primitive and .. generic for the purpose I ran into.. a multi-lingual dynamic web page, easily readable, editable and sharable (distributable)..

    As you might have guessed from the XSLT part what you see would be again an HTML that will be formed on the fly so we could see them on browser. Instead, I could have called out PHP Gd to action and produce my JPEGs or PNGs, or make up a complete FLASH movie, a DHTML slide-show by conventional means - but none of them would have been machine readable..

    As a matter of fact I am about to premiere a fully a dynamic HTML5 web site which will be WORTHY to study for it is right now featuring some of the latest semantic elements and new features including those yet-implemented form attributes in browsers. I've also paid great attention in Linked Data and improved semantics with microformats.

    Last edited by kunter; 4th Dec 2009 at 20:49. Reason: I always re-edit!
    - kunter ilalan web designer
    follow him on twitter and on MediaCollege

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