XHTML 2 language dumped in favor of HTML 5

W3C looks to focus efforts on HTML upgrade geared to Web development

Looking to focus on the budding -- and game-changing -- HTML 5 specification, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) said Thursday it plans to increase available resources for the effort by discontinuing further development of XHTML 2.

XHTML been an XML-based version of HTML and has been the subject of several W3C efforts ranging from XHTML 1.0 to XHTML Modularization and XHTML 2. The 2 version of the XHTML language was to offer capabilities for mobile systems and internationalization.

The XHTML 2 Working Group charter, scheduled to expire at the end of 2009, will not be renewed.  By discontinuing the XHTML 2 working group and increasing resources in the HTML 5 Working Group, W3C hopes to accelerate progress of HTML 5 and clarify the organization's position regarding the future HTML.

HTML 5, out in a draft form, focuses on Web application development and offers such capabilities as multimedia for browser-based applications, which could present strong competition to existing browser plug-in technologies such as Adobe Flash. "HTML 5 is the language of Web pages," said Ian Jacobs, W3C representative.

XHTML was spawned in the late 1990s, when some thought XML represented the future of formats on the Web, said Jacobs. Meanwhile, others stuck by HTML and formed  WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) outside of W3C to continue work on HTML. But work on the HTML 5 specification development now is taking place at W3C, with W3C and WHATWG working in parallel.

HTML and XHTML 2 working groups were formed by W3C in March 2007. "Basically, two years ago we chartered two working groups to work on similar things, and that created confusion in the marketplace," said Jacobs.

Work on both XHTML 2 and HTML 5 proceeded as parallel efforts for Web development, but it has become clear to W3C that markets for XHTML 2 are so small compared to HTML 5, Jacobs said.

XHTML 2 will not become a W3C standard, Jacobs said. "We're investing in HTML 5 for the future," he said. Work stops on the XHTML language, but W3C still plans an XML formulation of  HTML 5, to be done by the HTML working group.

A prominent AJAX and Web development proponent applauded the W3C decision.

"XHTML was a rat hole, and now we can use W3C folks to help make HTML 5 better," said Dion Almaer, co-editor of the Ajaxian Web site who also has been serving as co-director of developer tools at Mozilla.

Meanwhile, WC3 hopes to go to a 'last call' phase with HTML 5 later this year, which would seek community confirmation of the work that has been done. Afterward, there would be a candidate recommendation phase and development of a test suite.

"What the [HTML] group has said is they expect the process of getting implementations [of the specification] to work together is going to be a long process," Jacobs said.

Maintenance work will continue to be done on XHTML 1.1, to fix bugs. W3C has a FAQ available on XHTML.

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