Is HTML on the web a special case?
Some random thoughts and responses to lots of blog discussion sparked by the XML2 article, where I asked “Is HTML on the Web a special case?”
By which, I mean, if you go through all the effort of writing down all the syntax rules used by the union of browsers that you care about, then go through the pain of getting consensus within a standards body, will the resulting document be useful beyond HTML on the Web, much like how XML is useful beyond being a vehicle for XHTML?
I don’t know if Tim Bray had that same version of the question in mind, but he answers “obviously ‘yes'”.
But I don’t think so. Once you have that set of rules, wouldn’t it be useful in other areas, say, notoriously RSS on the web? SVG? MathML? In fact, I’d go as far as saying that any hand-authored markup would be a candidate for XML2 syntax.
What about mobile? Anne van Kesteren responds:
in that article Micah Dubinko mentions mobile browsers living up to their premise and all that. What he says however, isn’t really true. Mobile browsers and XHTML is tag soup parsing all the way.
He links to this page, which does a rather poor job of making a point the author seems to have decided upon before starting the experiment. If you look at the specific test cases, one tests completely bizarro markup that no author or tool I can imagine would ever produce. Another test checks the handling of content-type, not markup. On the other axis, the choices there seem a bit jumbled: lists of user-agent strings, one for stock Mozilla, and a footnote indicating confusion about what browser is really in use. If anything, this page shows that the browsers tested here, with the exception of Opera Mini, are crap. If you spend more than a few minutes in mobile, you’ll discover this widespread trend. (And I’m working on a solution…watch this space).
Look at this from a pragmatic viewpoint. Check the doctype used on Yahoo! front page vs mobile front page. Despite the poor browsers, XHTML adoption is still farther ahead on the mobile web then the desktop web.
The last thing nagging at me (for now) is whether XML2 will have an infoset. Will it be possible to use XPath, XQuery, and XML tools on XML2 content? How well will these map to each other? In the strict sense, no, XML2 won’t have a conforming infoset because it will never include namespaces. But might it support a subset of the infoset? (Would that be a infosubset?) That’s a huge open question at this point. -m