The XHTML wars

June 18th, 2004
Web Design, Web Ethics, XHTML Tips

While validating this blog (as XHTML 1.0 Strict, mind you) I was reading through some of the banter between the w3c and various XHTML fanatics while reading through a comment left on pictorialis by another XHTML fanboy. The fanboy had a loud mouth, was wrong in his assumptions and just looked really moronish in his assertions. In spite of that idiot, what the heck is wrong with the standards people?

Take the work of w3c for example. They make standards which are too hard for end users to understand (P3P), standards which are too brittle for the real world (XHTML 2.0) and standards which developers can’t be bothered with (XHTML Basic) (quote: mpt). This is, of course, the view of a usability guru. There are various other opinions littering the web ranging from “XHTML and DTDs are the *only* future of the web” to hate and scorn for XHTML types. I love reading through elaborate definitions and arguments that the heavyweights of the industry put forth in their weblogs and then reading through the comments that ensue. The only item missing from *all* of these dicussions is any speak of compromise.

What was the original goal of any and all of this? Are we trying to make the web a better place or are we more interested in Utopian ideals about ampersands (no offense anne’s post on unescaped ampersands). Ampersands will break real XHTML browsers, but how would one feature, one weakness, make adaptation of XHTML more pervasive? Are web standards ever going to be serious business with all of this infighting? If any of the “heavyweights” (read: people with a voice, people that can make a difference and turn other people’s opinions) are reading this, please understand that the mom and pop shop that is coding the next NewEgg is not going to give a hoot about your stupid wars, they have already written code (or will write) which is validated by no one at the sweat shop they get their code written from!

I have a few points to make here and then Im done.

  • Stop the cribbing and the bitching. Its getting us nowhere and people are getting tired of every design/markup blog telling us that every new standard is somehow bad/wrong/broken.
  • Start bitching about bad style/markup in existing software and trying to promote what we have already. Anne does make the very important point of trying to goad software developers and CMS developers into generating valid markup through their tools. The benefits of good markup that is semantic are tremendous.
  • Continue your work on making standards better, but please, please do not make that crux of your work or the emphasis of your campaign.
  • Be nice to other people. If you disagree, there are many ways to say that. Say it nicely, apologize if you think you are being offensive, be very open to criticism, be quick to say you are wrong if you know that you are. One thing I would like people to remember is that written text/chat is a terrible way to actually conduct a good discussion and understand feelings or expressions. I think IRC is killing programming as we know it. So try a little harder to look at the other persons’ perspective.
  • Promote, Promote, Promote instead of Fight, Fight, Fight



  1. Craig (11 comments.) says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Let’s not also forget the vast numbers of people who want to enjoy, for example, blogging for the fun of it, and not just the bragging rights of XHTML Verified! for their sites. Many people would like to do it right, and in the most simple and easy fashion. Even the myriad of DTDs to choose from has many folks scratching their heads, never mind those folks who will only use the HTML 4.01 Strict and nothing else because “it’s as good or better than XHTML Transitional.”

    I’m not an expert by any means. I want to know what the standards are, and I will happily construct my little sector of cyberspace to those standards. I’m personally sick of the big names in the web-world engaged in pissing matches about everything from DTDs to how many H1s should be “allowed” in an HTML document.

    Let’s not even get started on XML. What we are likely going to see, is that egos will come to be more important than the standards. This is the case in many instances already. Tribes will form, and blogs and sites will be clogged a la MT with hews and cries of despair from all camps. Meanwhile, I’ll still be sitting here, wondering which standard to follow. Not unlike the browser wars themselves, the standards wars will see one set conquer the other, and most of us will jump onto that bandwagon and ride it into the cybersunset until a new technology is born and a new set of standards is released. Besides, if we all agreed, then how will some of the self-proclaimed experts get book deals?

    Yep, I’m cynical, which is kind of sad. Show me a path to standards-paradise, and I will happily walk it and add my own distinctiveness to the collective.

    Resistance is futile.

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