You might be comfortable with HTML, but XHTML is better. XHTML expert Molly Holzschlag discusses why it's worth making the switch.
The fact that XHTML became a recommendation on January 26, 2000, has done little to inspire most people working in the Web world to begin using it. This comes despite the fact that, in its 1.0 form, XHTML is perfectly usable and relatively easy to learn. So what's the problem?
Part of the reason for this lag might lie in the fact that XHTML 1.0 is not widely known to most people who have been working with HTML—they use visual editors or other tools to do their daily work, and they rarely have the time to keep up with standards. If it works, it works, and that's what matters in the real world.
Another possibility is that many Web designers struggle hard to get their work to function across browsers and across platforms. People from the graphics spectrum have had to learn how to author HTML markup, which has become increasingly complex over the past years—it's no longer your father's straight-forward HTML. The term XML is a daunting one. For the designer, it means changing a method—HTML—barely under control now. Why make it more challenging and raise the learning curve? On the developer side, HTML is often seen to be a quick end to displaying a document rather than the means of designing a page. It has not been taken seriously by many programmers, who are busier with algorithms and debugging.
And what of the hobbyist, who heard that building a Web page was easy? Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about adding the X to HTML is that it is viewed as the domain of the professional, not the individual who simply wishes to express his or her personality online. Why learn syntax or software as complex as that which exists today? The Web of the people and by the people is no longer as straight-forward a reality as it once was.
When viewed in the bright light of day, the reason that XHTML 1.0 has not been widely adopted may well boil down to faulty press. It has been poorly promoted, and its rationale has been poorly explained. But XHTML serves many fine purposes, which I shall describe in the next article in this series.
An author, instructor, and designer, Molly E. Holzschlag brings her irrepressible enthusiasm to books, classrooms, and Web sites. Honored as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web, Molly has worked in the online world for an almost unprecedented decade. She has written and contributed to more than 10 books about the Internet and, in particular, the Web.
Molly holds a B.A. in communications and writing and an M.A. in media studies from the New School for Social Research. You can visit her Web site at http://www.molly.com/.
Molly's most recent publications are Special Edition Using XHTML(Que, November 2000), Sams Teach Yourself Adobe LiveMotion in 24 Hours (Sams, June 2000), and Special Edition Using HTML 4.0, Sixth Edition (Que, December 1999).