Why I Use HTML 4.01 Strict Digg this entry Add this entry to del.icio.us bookmarks Add this entry to Slashdot bookmarks

A couple days ago, Surfin’ Safari posted a guide on understanding HTML, XML and XHTML, in which they recommend against using XHTML for a few reasons.

Initially after reading the above blog entry, I decided to write my own, defending my decision to use XHTML strict. My main reason was because I take comfort in rules. I like the idea of having to close every tag that opens.

Gut Reactions

I'm no expert on the subject, but I've read what many of the cited experts have to say. As far as I can tell, every argument against using XHTML is based on one or both of two premises:

  • In the event that you decide to change the MIME type to "application/xhtml+xml" or "text/xml", you'll probably forget to make sure your page still works and validates as XML. In other words, you're most likely an idiot.
  • Even if your page does validate, you're still setting a bad example for others who are even more ignorant than yourself.

Reading these arguments, my first reaction is that I don't want to associate myself with the HTML advocates and their condescending arguments against those who use XHTML. I am also a little tweaked after noticing a rising trend: For every popular new site or redesign using XHTML, there's always one person who has to publicly challenge the site owner's decision to do so. Is it out of a desire to be the smartest person in the room? I don't know, but at the very least it comes off as rude.

The Turning Point

Despite the above reflexes, and instead of defending XHTML, I decided to convert the site to HTML. I became increasingly uncomfortable that I was serving XHMTL with an HTML MIME type. That was all I needed to know, and the perfectionist in me won out. If this site even exists at a point in time when I can convert it to XHTML using an "application/xhtml+xml" MIME type, without losing both of my viewers, I'll be happy to make the switch back to XHTML.

As for the experts who feel that insulting their readers is somehow persuasive, it's not. If we care enough to read your explanations, chances are we aren't part of the "problem".

5 CommentsRSS

1 Ed wrote: [6:43pm on September 27 2006]

One of the most sensible posts I've read in a long time. Bookmarked!

2 Maciej Stachowiak wrote: [5:53am on September 28 2006]

I hope my post did not come off as condescending. It was prompted by the real compatibility issues we were seeing with Dashboard issues, not imaginary problems. Also, I think the response comments show that a lot of people aren't clear on how HTML/XHTML works, and I hoped to improve understanding.

3 y5 wrote: [2:57pm on September 28 2006]


Your article was not condescending. It is one of the most lucid and informative guides on the XHTML/HTML that I've read. Thank you.

For weeks/months of visiting redesigned sites, I watched as the site owner was asked "Why did you choose XHTML?" And each time the site owner would respond, without exception, the same guest would spout off about reasons not to use it. It was obviously not an honest question, it was likely fueled by the same "bandwagonism" that your cited experts criticize, and it's petty (as you hint at in your conclusion).

My ideas on the subject weren't focused until I read the experts you linked (specifically Anne van Kesteren and Ian Hickson), in context with the above behavior.

I hope this clarifies my thoughts.

4 Rob Burns wrote: [9:12pm on October 4 2006]

I was happy to find your artilce from the Surfin’ Safari blog. I think the reason those experts come off as so condescending is that they have no argument whatsoever. Without anything to back up their position they resort to condescension, innuendo and guilting others. The W3C actually endorses delivering XHTML 1 documents as the text/html mime type. It is part of a transition strategy to bring about wider acceptance of XHTML. The so-called experts guiling everyone out of doing so only serve to retard the adoption of XHTML and other XML recommendations. Again, thanks for standing up to these bullies.

5 Mark Rowe wrote: [12:20am on October 5 2006]

Rob, there is no need to take what is inherently a technical discussion to a personal level. It should be possible for everyone involved to have an open debate about this issue without resorting to name-calling.

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