Ah, blogging: the new long-form Tweet. This morning I said:
retraining myself not to /> close img, input, and meta tags. It’s an uphill battle.
Which received an instant string of responses asking, in a nutshell, “why?” So I clarified:
because I’m done with XHTML is why. Back to HTML 4.01 Strict for now, then HTML5 whenever that happens.
Which caused more replies and follow-up emails than I was really prepared for. People are still passionate about this stuff, which kind of surprised me.
So I’ll take the luxury of a few more than 140 characters to expand my thoughts. Within the last few months — though I’d been intending to do so for much longer than that — I made the decision to switch all my client work starting point templates from XHTML over to HTML 4.01 and start delivering everything as plain old semantic HTML, minus the X.
The XHTML/HTML choice still seems to be a bit of a dilemma, with most having a fairly established opinion one way or the other. Some love XHTML for its strict syntax and easier learning curve, some despise it for being so misused by the average content producer.
I made the switch more because of overall trends. Six years ago, many of us thought XHTML would be the future of the web and we’d be living in an XML world by now. But in the intervening time it’s become fairly apparent to myself and others that XHTML2 really isn’t going anywhere, at least not in the realm that we care about. For me, a guy who builds web sites and applications for clients that have to work in today’s browsers, XHTML2 is a non-issue. No browser support, no use to today’s web authors. End of story.
And as a result, there seems to be a shifting of consensus from “XTHML is the future of the web” to “XHTML2 is pretty much never going to happen, looks like HTML5 is the pony to back now”. For proof, just compare how fast the major browsers are implementing HTML5 features now to the significant steps they’ve made with XHTML2 over the past 5 years (hint: crickets are chirping).
Not to say that HTML5 doesn’t have its own set of problems; I’ve been seeing a lot of the same blog posts you have regarding the difficulty of implementation today, and the working group issues plaguing its development. It’s got a long ways to go. But if I were to make a bet on which of the two languages I’ll be writing in ten or fifteen years, HTML5 seems like a safer bet.
So given that I’ve lost faith in XHTML, it doesn’t make much sense to continue propagating it. I’m not ready to start working through the contortions needed to make my sites work with an HTML5 DOCTYPE yet, which leaves me with the most recent implemented version of the language. I may start writing HTML5-ready HTML 4.01 like Clear Left did for their UX London site, but until I get a better sense that HTML5 has arrived, 4.01 will do me just fine for the next four or five years.
Jeff Allen points out in the comments that UX London does in fact use the HTML5 DOCTYPE. So, to clarify the above point: I may start writing pseudo-HTML5 markup using classes like Clear Left does, however I’m not quite ready to use the actual DOCTYPE as they did.
Keep in mind this is really just one opinion in the fray. I’m not necessarily right, I’m just offering my personal response to what I see as the trend.