Posted on January 24, 2009 - by Khaled
During the last years Web standards started to gain an increasing popularity among Web designers. Still Web standards addicts are a ceaselessly growing minority until now. This is probably due to the fact that the majority regards the use of web standards in their projects as a hard process that requires a lot of time and process. Which is not 100% true in my opinion as Web Standards are the only right way to go! Dedication to standards is the key! following the W3C recommendations is a must! This is the first post from the “WEB STANDARDS ARE THE ONLY WAY!” series. And what a better start than having a “pragmatic evangelist for web standards and accessibility” sharing his view about subjects like the future of HTML, the use of XHTML or Should we start using HTML5?
So here’s a short, yet very interesting, interview with Tommy Olsson. But first let’s introduce Tommy to those who don’t know him. Tommy is a Swedish Web standards and accessibility Guru. He’s the Design Team leader at the SitePoint forums (so he’s my boss there!). He has written many articles for SitePoint and especially he co-authored with Paul O’Brien the SitePoint CSS reference. He had also won the “HTML/XHTML Guru” award of the SPF community for several consecutive years. You can check out his blog here.
The Future of HTML and HTML5
1. Almost 20 years after the first relase of HTML how do you see its future?
I’ll confidently state that HTML will have its place in web development for the foreseeable future … provided you don’t ask me how long that is.
There is a need for a semantic markup language to exchange information between people. Although there are fashionable trends with ‘rich content’ (which invariably means ‘flashy’ and ‘pretty’ rather than ‘useful’), all such technologies have drawbacks when it comes to accessibility. HTML as such is inherently accessible.
2.What are your thoughts about HTML5? should we start using the released drafts especially with the available validators? What does it add? is it heading towards more respect of semantics? What potential does HTML5 has?
HTML5 worries me. A lot. I’ve been using HTML since 1993 (before it even had a version number), so I’ve seen the changes it has gone through. In the mid-’90s there was a loss of focus on semantics, in favour of presentation, but it quickly became apparent that this was the wrong way to go. Content and presentation should be kept separate, which is why CSS was invented.
The ongoing work with HTML5 seems to ignore semantics to a large degree. Yes, it proposes to add a handful of semantic element types, but it also adds purely presentational stuff that – in my opinion – doesn’t belong in a markup language.
Even worse is that it redefines long-established semantics of existing element types. For instance, the P element type no longer denotes a paragraph; it becomes a generic block-level container – nothing more than a synonym for DIV.
The contempt for accessibility is even more worrying. The drafts propose to eliminate several important attributes (or at least make them non-required). The reason appears to be a lack of support in contemporary assistive technology.
My opinion is that HTML5 is to semantics and accessibility what Herod was to the Bethlehem Playground Association!
Should we use it? For experimental purposes, perhaps, but I would strongly recommend against any attempt to use it on a serious, professional web site. Why? Because it’s not a W3C recommendation. It’s just an early draft which is likely to change many times before consensus is reached. (If that ever happens.)
3. What are your thoughts about combining HTML5 and XHTML2?
XHTML2 is not backwards compatible with HTML at all. That’s also true for parts of HTML5, but not to the same degree. (If I’ve understood the drafts correctly.)
XHTML2 did show some interesting proposals for semantics and accessibility, but the fact that it’s an application of XML makes it utterly inappropriate for web pages, at least until the day we have really good authoring tools. Handcoding XML is not a good idea in a production environment, due to its draconian error handling.
XHTML2 and (X)HTML5 aren’t compatible, and their progress appears to diverge. I think it would be difficult to reconcile them into a single markup language.
4. What do you say to people ‘using‘ XHTML ?
Seriously, XHTML is long dead, due to a decade of horrible abuse. Not even the bleached bones remain.
Web Standards & Browsers?
5. Why should Web designers always respect Web standards?
For the same reason that other professionals should respect the standards of their business. It makes life so much easier for everyone – browser vendors, web designers and developers, users, …
Anyone who tried to create web sites during the Browser Wars of the late ’90s will know what I mean .
6. What’s your favourite browser and why?
Opera. It’s the most standards compliant browser, which means it’s easy to see if I got my stuff right. It also comes loaded with tons of useful features (and, admittedly, quite a few I haven’t yet found a use for). It’s more customisable than any other browser and it’s available for lots of different platforms. I use it with GNU/Linux at home and with Windows XP at the office, and it looks and works exactly the same. I even use Opera Mini on my mobile.
I rarely use the mouse when I browse, preferring keyboard navigation. And there’s no browser that beats Opera when it comes to keyboard navigation!
7. Which Web browser do you think is going to gain even more market shere in 2009?
I really wish I could say Opera, but I don’t think it will happen. I’m sure IE8 will take a large piece of the cake when it’s released, regardless of how good (or bad) it turns out. I also think it’s quite possible that Chrome will increase its share – possibly at the expense of Safari and/or Firefox.
8. Anything you want to add?
You really don’t want to ask a chatterbox like me that question! I can talk ’til the cows come home, you know that.
But I’ll settle for, ‘Thanks for letting me use your soapbox for a while.’
I enjoyed having Tommy answering these questions that might briefly summarize the actual situation when it comes to HTML, XHTML and HTML5. I think this short interview will be a good and fast to read reference for many web designers. I hope you enjoyed it too and that it will help you making the right decisions when it comes to web design and web development. To make this blog post even more interesting I am including Tommy’s HTML Guru list! check it out
So You Want To Be An HTML Guru?
Try this list compiled by Tommy Olsson based on articles published on SitePoint:
I may add another nice article: Learn HTML and CSS: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Ian Lloyd.