Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Mark Pilgrim vs W3C

Mark Pilgrim, aka Dive Into Mark, is somewhat annoyed by W3C’s latest draft for XHTML 2.0.


Basically the new standard sees the removal of several tags to make the language less complex, which can only be good; remember that search engine robots also need to be able to understand your pages, as do interpreters used for converting your text to braille or speech.
Mark accuses the W3C of removing several tags that will undermine XHTML 2.0’s usefulness. I can safely say I’ve never used those tags, maybe because I’ve never had to, and it appears that the syntax is merely going to change. Like the s and strike tags being removed due to their provision by CSS.
He also asks who actually uses XHTML 1.1. Err… me. And bar the odd error with one of the RIAA posts that I’ll fix when I remember, it validates too.
The other thing is the possible removal of the h1-h6 tags, to be replaced by a single h tag placed inside section tags (which can be nested). To me, that seems more complex, and I have to say I prefer the existing system, but I can also see advantages of the other method.
Mark also complains about the lack of take-up of these standards. I personally don’t think that is the W3C’s fault – it’s the fault of the product designers. I also disagree that we should go back to HTML 4.01 – why? XHTML 1.1 is a perfectly good and logical standard, and I’m happy with the way my site loads with it. In fact, the stricter rules in XHTML have made me think more about how the site is designed, and as a result has created a more functional site.
However, the original reasons for the stripping back of XHTML may no longer apply. The idea was to remove most of the formatting tags, and reduce ambiguity as much as possible, so that mobile devices, which by nature tend to have less memory, can still display web pages without compensating for a huge range of tags and variations. The huge size of browser suites like IE and Netscape proves this – to be able to display as many pages as possible requires a lot of extra code to account for all of the different methods. Try fitting that on a device with 16MB of memory, then including an operating system and everything else.
However, memory has got cheaper, and so newer devices have larger memory, so they will be able to cope with larger browsers. Maybe we should stop going quite so far with the stripping down; otherwise web designers will become alienated. Like Mark appears to have done already.
Mark has done some great sites explaining about accessability and creating standards-compliant web pages, but I think he’s really barking up the wrong tree here. Why can’t he just ignore XHTML 2.0 if it’s going to annoy him that much? It’s not like HTML is going to become obsolete any time soon.

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