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   Re: [xml-dev] What are the arguments *for* XHTML 2.0?

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AndrewWatt2000@aol.com writes:
>I know that there are several supporters of XTHML 2.0 on the list and
>at least one or two who are actively involved in its development.
>I would like to ask the straightforward question: "What are the
>strongest arguments for continuing development of XHTML 2.0?".
>What are the characteristics of XHTML 2.0 that make you conclude that
>XHTML 2.0 is an appropriate way forward?

Like Rick Jelliffe, I'm somewhat confused about what you're asking here,
so I'll just take my best shot. (Sorry that it's rather long.)  Note
that all statements about corporate or consortium behavior are base on
sheer Kremlinology, and may not in fact represent the way those
organizations see their own behavior.  I'm sure many people here will
disagree with that perspective.

XHTML 2.0 feels like a crucial ingredient of the browser conversation to
me.  That conversation has pretty much stalled over the last few years.

Netscape has vaporized into AOL, an organization that hasn't exactly
loved the Web, and while Mozilla is perhaps the torch-bearer par
excellence for the 'traditional Web', it lacks the "installed with
everything" advantage. 

Microsoft appears to have lost interest in Internet Explorer since
"winning" the Browser Wars.  The upgrades to IE appear to be largely
outside the browser engine, and improvements are clearly incremental. In
a lot of ways, it feels like the last major change to IE was in IE4,
when they rebuilt the object model - and bonded it tightly to HTML.

There are other companies and projects in the browser space, and I'm
quite fond of Opera, but I don't see great hope for a new browser
reinvigorating the overall market.

Meanwhile, the W3C as an organization appears to have lost interest in
HTML.  The leadership appears distracted by RDF and (to a lesser extent)
XML, while the membership appears distracted by Web Services, a tool kit
with only remote connections to its supposed "Web" origins.  The HTML WG
seems to spend a lot of time fending off other parts of the W3C who
think they know better than mere HTML culture can produce.

The HTML WG seems to have suffered a cursed existence for the past few
years.  Namespaces were supposedly going to help us integrate other XML
vocabularies (SVG, SMIL, MathML, etc.) but proved a huge nuisance for
XHTML's three-forms-one-vocabulary approach.  XML 1.0 DTDs might have
been all right for XHTML modularization, but wow the namespace
interaction were awful.  W3C XML Schema didn't help that front much
either, as the backers of RELAX NG have been happy to demonstrate.

Given all of that, the sheer perseverance of the HTML WG deserves
applause.  <pause />

Despite that perseverance, the forward development of HTML has suffered
about the same lack of momentum that Mozilla has suffered.  Delays
caused by internalizing these externally-inflicted issues and a general
drift away from HTML as the central activity at the W3C pretty much mean
that the "traditional Web" with its HTML and browser-based foundations
is in trouble.

There have been a few nice pieces of work to come out of the XHTML
Working Group in that period (XHTML Basic is a favorite of mine), but
it's only fairly recently (last six months?) that I've really begun to
see XHTML discussion on Web developers mailing lists.  (XHTML-L doesn't
count for that, though its membership has grown slightly.)

XHTML 2.0 is an opportunity to break out of the stall.  I see XForms in
particular as crucial to keeping the Web from being eaten by the Web
Services and "Rich Internet Applications" that have been eating around
its edges for a while.  The Web has to move forward if it hopes to
survive, as its promise of cheap interoperability (which it did
remarkably well, even with the Browser Wars) is under assault once more
from vendors who have a lot to gain by fragmenting the Web and Web
applications into proprietary pieces under their control.

XForms is especially critical because it addresses probably the weakest
part of the HTML infrastructure.  Forms have sort of barely evolved
since their first appearance, and they're pretty much a nuisance.
They're one of the few places where I find information validation
genuinely powerful, and current solutions on both the server and the
client are pretty ugly.  XHTML 2.0 looks overall like an effort to make
XHTML a cleaner environment in which to work, and that seems worth
pursuing as a first step toward putting XHTML back on the tracks.

While it's not at all clear that Microsoft or the other browser vendors
have the time or interest in improving the Web, the only way forward
seems to be to try, and (X)HTML appears to be the right place to do it.
It has a wide base, a lot of committed developers who have been starved
for features over the past few years, and foundations that are both
well-understood and reasonably extensible.

Will XHTML 2.0 sweep the world?  It's too soon to tell.  Is XHTML 2.0
worth the effort? I think the answer to that is an obvious yes, and not
because XHTML needs all the latest XML gimmicks. The Web needs some
progress in XHTML for the to stay alive.  I worry that at current rates
of progress the Web will have disappeared by the time the Semantic Web
is ready.

Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid: is another possibility altogether


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