Friday, March 23, 2007

The Next Version of XHTML May Be HTML 5

An independent group, WHAT-WG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group), has been working outside of the official W3C since 2004 towards a new "version" of HTML. In March 2007 the W3C announced a new official HTML Working Group that is expected to build on and extend WHAT-WG's efforts.

According to the W3C HTML Working Group's charter, their charge is to recommend a new standard that combines HTML and XHTML:
"This group will maintain and produce incremental revisions to the HTML specification, which includes the series of specifications previously published as XHTML version 1. Both XML and 'classic HTML' syntaxes will be produced."
An initial Working Draft is due June 2007 and should make for some interesting reading! The process will take several years -- the Recommendation is due 2010. The new W3C HTML Working Group is to plan incremental changes to HTML and XHTML together.

Tim Berners-Lee shares his perspective of the reinvention of HTML at his blog. He stated,
"The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn't work."
Another area that the W3C HTML Working Group will address is extensions to HTML forms. According to Berners-Lee,
"A goal would be to have an HTML forms language which is a superset of the existing HTML language, and a subset of a XForms language with added HTML compatibility."
There is a plan for a separate group to continue the XHTML 2.0 work, although Berners-Lee indicated that there would be no dependency of HTML work on the XHTML 2.0 work. The diagram below depicts the relationship between these markup languages:

According to the W3C's architectural vision, -- the deployment strategy and expected field of use for the new HTML and for XHTML 2.0 are expected to be different -- with new HTML for use by typical Web pages and web applications such as content management systems and the non-backward compatible XHTML 2.0 designed to meet "enterprise-strength" needs.

It seems that Web developers who transitioned from HTML to XHTML will need to be flexible again as they look forward to a new version of HTML.

For additional perspectives and more information, see
HTML5 Versus XHTML 2
HTML 5 or XHTML 2?
Ajaxian Editorial
On the Road to XHTML 2 and HTML 5
The Future of HTML, Part 1:WHATWG
The Future of HTML, Part 2:XHTML 2.0
How not to fix HTML
Annotated WHAT-WG Working Draft
HTML5, XHTML2, and the Future of the Web