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03 July 2009, 14:14

XHTML 2 to be discontinued

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It was supposed to be the biggest reform project in the history of the W3C. Yesterday, however, the web standardisation committee pulled the plug on XHTML 2, a project that had been on the road to disaster for years. According to the development schedule, the XHTML2 Working Group charter expires at the end of the year and will not be extended.

XHTML 2 was an ambitious attempt to address some of the initial problems HTML. The Working Group members were particularly keen to finally shelve SGML-based HTML in favour of XML and to continue developing the modular and namespace approach that was started with XHTML 1.1. For instance, they planned to develop separate web standards for framesets and forms (XFrames and XForms). The XHTML Working Group also tried to pave the way for a Semantic Web, define DTDs for Compound Document formats (such as XHTML, SVG and MathML) and extend the functionality of links and URLs.

Despite numerous innovative approaches, such as the simplified integration of images and separate URLs into individual framesets, the total redevelopment of the 90s web standard met with little enthusiasm from its beginning in 2002. The browser manufacturers in particular criticised the drafts, which are incompatible with the previous (X)HTML, as being poorly suited for practical implementation. Considering themselves under-represented in the Working Group around Steven Pemberton, employees at Mozilla, Opera, Google and Apple founded the WHATWG group in 2004. Guided by their motto "maintaining and evolving HTML", WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) aimed at taking charge of the development of HTML.

In 2006, W3C founder Tim Berners-Lee himself stepped on the emergency brake and took WHATWG under the wing of the W3C as a competing HTML Working Group. As a result, the rebels took over the HTML Working Group to develop the (X)HTML 5 specification, which has already been partially implemented in the browsers, while the XHTML2 architects were shunted into a newly established group.

In the six remaining months of its charter, the XHTML2 Working Group wants to focus on making corrections to the XHTML 1.1 specifications. According to a FAQ document, a minor part of its activities (especially the role attributes) are to be continued in the HTML Working Group; the W3C will also continue to develop XForms, although probably not as a part of HTML5.


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