You’ll note, as you start poking through the source code, that most of these contain the odd table or two. You’ll also notice that most come close to validation, but don’t quite succeed.
These are real-world examples. Waxing theoretical about the benefits of pure and valid markup is fine, but when crunch time comes this is almost always the reality. Wired and ESPN do not validate. Cingular was never perfect, and is quite a mess now.
What can be said for the tables? Transitional layouts are still necessary today, given project requirements. Some visual effects cannot work reliably between the major browsers. Others cannot be done without CSS3. It’s fun to think of a day when all browsers everywhere will handle every layout exactly the same. It’s also fun to think of a day when we’ll have flying cars and full meals in convenient pill format.
As has been noted elsewhere, we the people who are doing this for a paycheque face reality, not theory. When push comes to shove, we make the choices that work. This is not always consistent with the “right” choice.
Commercial web design will continue to be about compromise. Nine times out of ten, the more effective use of the client’s dollar goes toward building and refining content over validating every last tag. Not to say that the two are incompatible, but between spending $500 on purifying their source or creating additional ads for off-site promotion, guess which most clients perceive as the most value for that money?
This is no excuse not to strive for the end goal of a compliant site. But it is a polite reminder to those who would find fault in others who, through factors they have no control over, can only go 95% of the way.
Theory is nice, in theory. But providing the best solution involves knowing that sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules.