Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Anne Buff, John Grady, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Bob Gourley

Related Topics: XML

XML: Article

XHTML: XML On The Client Side

XHTML: XML On The Client Side

The XML developer doesn't have to be convinced of XML's strength. You've heard it a million times: it's all about the data. The same is true on the client side. XHTML strongly embraces the separation of content and presentation, and brings XML's syntactical logic, as well as extensible opportunities, to the client-side table.

XHTML 1.0, a reformulation of HTML as an XML application, has been the W3C's Web markup recommendation (www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/) since January 26, 2000. That's more than a year now, but client-side authors and developers of popular authoring software have been slow on the take. Much of the problem lies in the fact that XHTML is misunderstood and not well publicized. Some client-side authors don't see it as having any special advantages, and many critics have claimed that XHTML simply won't be widely adopted. This may well be proven out. XHTML has been almost completely missed by the vast majority of entry- and mid-level professionals.

Ignoring or overlooking XHTML is problematic for the professional developer. Whether it's a useful client-side methodology remains a personal question. However, knowing what it is, why it is, and how it may or may not effectively aid the work you do allows you to make an informed, empowered decision about the technologies you choose to employ.

XHTML: What and Why
In simple terms, writing documents in XHTML means that instead of authoring that old familiar HTML, you are in essence writing XML. XML, in XHTML 1.0, employs HTML as its vocabulary. So elements and attributes are not arbitrary - they're drawn directly from HTML. Similarly, XML syntax rules are applied.

But how does this help client-side authors? The answer is simple. How many of you have honestly paid much attention to the HTML you generate? Some of you will certainly say you do, but most developers - like most Web designers - are guilty of a slapdash attitude toward HTML. It's not your fault. HTML has become sloppy, in part because it's been bent in many directions to accommodate the rapid growth of the Web. And browsers are extremely forgiving of poor markup. Nothing has demanded that you write clean documents because for the most part you haven't had to.

The problems resulting from this are manifold. First, there's no consistency in markup from one HTML author to the next. They've each got their own methodology - some write elements in uppercase, others in lowercase. Quotes are sometimes in use, sometimes not. Looking under the hood at even the most high-end site is usually not a pretty experience. So adding a little syntactical rigor to the mix via XHTML gets authors on the same page, if you'll pardon the pun. That can make for a much smoother workflow among teams.

XHTML 1.0 focuses heavily on getting markup cleaned up. But XHTML has another goal, too, and that's to extend to user agents beyond the Web browser: PDAs, smart phones, set-top boxes, and other alternative and wireless devices. Streamline and strengthen the markup, and you've got a stronger base from which to extend it. That's a logical and rational idea.

Another argument made in XHTML's defense - and it's a controversial one but I buy into it - is that it helps the client-side author who has XML phobia to begin moving into the XML arena via familiar means. I like this argument because as an educator, I've seen proof that it works. Take entry- or mid-level Web authors, teach them XHTML, and suddenly you can also teach them other XML applications: WML, SMIL, SVG. The light bulb goes on because they're operating in an environment that's familiar - HTML. The XML kind of sneaks in via document structure and syntactical rules.

Brass Tacks: XHTML Document Structure
To gain a better idea of how XHTML 1.0 works, let's first examine its document structure.
Ideally, an XML document begins with an XML declaration:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
But XHTML documents are most often viewed using popular Web browsers, which in some cases will render anything with an XML declaration as text. So for XHTML 1.0, the W3C recommends (but does not require) that the XML declaration be intact. Most Web authors leave it off.

Next comes the DTD, which is required. With XHTML 1.0, you can choose from three public DTDs: strict, transitional, or frameset. Developers working with HTML 4.0 will be familiar with these DTDs and know that the strict DTD uses the most limited set of elements and attributes of the three, basing much of its selection on the idea that presentation and structure must be separate. So you won't find the font element in a strict document. Transitional documents, however, are more flexible, understanding that Web authors must make some accommodations in order to achieve the best interoperability possible. Frameset documents are limited to framesets and can employ elements from strict or transitional DTDs.

For a strict XHTML 1.0 document, you'll use the following declaration:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/ xhtml1-strict.dtd">

If you want to write your document in accordance with the transitional DTD, you'll use:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/ xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
Finally, if you're authoring a frameset, you'll use this declaration:
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Frameset//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/ xhtml1-frameset.dtd">
It's important to remember that there are no exceptions to the rule here. You must declare the proper DTD in your XHTML 1.0 document.

Now it's time to add the namespace to the root. In XHTML 1.0 the root element is html. The root and namespace is also a requirement, and is written as follows:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
Listing 1 shows a strict document template using the XML declaration. In Listing 2 I show a transitional document template using a meta workaround for document encoding should you choose not to use the XML declaration.

Get Tough: XHTML Syntax
Now that you've got the document structure down, it's time to explore the syntactical rules that XHTML 1.0 embodies:

  • Must be well formed
  • Is case specific
  • Insists on closing tags for nonempty elements, and termination of empty elements with a trailing slash
  • Demands that all attribute values be quoted Let's take a closer look.

Well-Formedness
Remember, Web browsers are built to forgive. That's one reason they're so bloated; they have to be able to interpret such a wide variety of markup styles. And most browsers will forgive ill-formed syntax. Try the following poorly formed bit of HTML in a browser:

<b><i>An ill-formed bit of HTML</b></i>
In common browsers such as MSIE and NN, this markup will appear in both bold and italics. However, if you examine the HTML, you'll see that the tags are improperly nested. If this markup were well formed, the tags would nest properly:
<b><i>A well-formed bit of HTML</i></b>
XHTML 1.0 must be well formed to be valid XHTML. A little trick I use to make sure I've nested my tags properly is to draw an imaginary line from the opening tag to its closing companion. If the lines don't intersect, it's properly nested and therefore well formed. Intersecting lines will indicate improperly nested, ill-formed markup.

Case Specificity
As you're already aware, XML is case sensitive:

<PRODUCT>
</PRODUCT>
and
<product>
</product>
are two different tag sets.

HTML, on the other hand, is not case specific:

<P align="right">
</P> is the same as: <p ALIGN="right">
</p>
XHTML is case specific. In every instance all elements and attribute names must be lower case:
<p align="right">
</p>
Note that attribute values can be in upper- or lowercase as necessary to accommodate file names, code strings, and URIs.

Element Handling
XHTML 1.0 adopts the XML method of closing all nonempty elements and terminating empty elements with a trailing slash. In HTML you can write the following:

<ul>
<li>list item 1
<li>list item 2
<li>list item 3
</ul>

but in XHTML, you must close the nonempty element:

<ul>
<li>list item 1</li>
<li>list item 2</li>
<li>list item 3</li>
</ul>
One of the more obvious places this occurs is with the paragraph <p> tag. You must close all nonempty elements, no exceptions.

If an element is empty (no content), it must terminate. In XML this is done by using a trailing slash as follows:

<br/>
But many Web browsers will choke on this method and subsequently not render a page or render it improperly. a workaround is to add a space before the slash. This allows all empty elements to be properly rendered. A few examples:
<img />
<hr />
<meta />
<link />
As with nonempty elements, there can be no exception to the rules. You must terminate the element accordingly.

Quoth the Attribute Value...
One of the more frustrating things about HTML - at least to my eye - is the arbitrariness of attribute value quoting. In HTML it's a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't phenomenon. So you can have:

<img src="my.jpg" border="1" width=400 height=200 alt="company logo">
or any combination of attribute value quotations you like. In most instances a browser will properly render the markup whether you've quoted the attribute value or not.

XHTML insists that you quote all attribute values, leaving nothing to chance:

<img src="my.jpg" border="1" width="400" height="200" alt="company logo" />

Not so hard, really
as you can now see, XHTML 1.0 is really no great challenge. Does it mean employing a little more care when creating documents? Yes. Does it mean watching your syntax? Absolutely. But with a few minor adjustments you can have clean markup that works in today's browsers with as close-to-perfect interoperability as HTML and still complies with W3C recommendations.

Advancing Notions: Modularization of XHTML
So what's a little cleanliness, anyway? Critics of XHTML have pointed out that changing habits just to write cleaner documents doesn't provide much incentive. It's time consuming and why on earth would you want to go back and rewrite hundreds, possibly thousands, of Web documents just to comply with a W3C recommendation when those documents function perfectly well? I can't, and won't, argue this point. It's too strong an argument. But if you're interested in moving toward extensibility, want to create consistent documents organization-wide, and want to assist your client-side authors in expanding their markup horizons, working with XHTML makes sense.

While XHTML 1.0 offers little option for extensibility - you've got three set DTDs and a specific namespace - the modularization of XHTML does offer expansion. Modularization of XHTML, which allows for the use of XML DTDs and provides the means to create subsets and extensions to XHTML, takes XHTML 1.0 from its limited place closer to its goal of working for numerous user agents. As of this writing, modularization of XHTML is a Candidate Rec-ommendation of the W3C (www.w3.org/TR/2000/CR-xhtml-modularization-20001020/).

Modularization of XHTML is a decomposition of HTML as we know it today. Instead of lumping markup methods such as managing text, images, tables, and forms, modularization breaks these things into separate modules. Then, using XML DTDs (an implementation of XML schemas is also under discussion), authors can pull together a subset of XHTML using only those modules necessary to accomplish a given task.

If you put modularization in the context of alternative device design, the rationale for XHTML begins to make a lot of sense. Many alternative devices simply don't have the processing, RAM, and video power to handle HTML's original functions. So why have all the overhead? A streamlined markup language using only those modules necessary for the device means faster, customizable delivery to equally streamlined optimized user agents.

A perfect example of modularization exists in XHTML Basic (www.w3.org/TR/xhtml-basic/), a subset of XHTML 1.1, made up of specific modules that apply to wireless devices such as PDAs, smart phones, and smart pagers. These devices are limited in their processing power, so XHTML Basic supplies those modules only for markup that make sense, such as text, links, images, very basic tables, and forms. Frames or scripting demand processing power, so they're left out of the subset. XHTML Basic, at this writing a Proposed Recommendation of the W3C, looks just like XHTML, but of course any element that falls into a module not set forth in the recommendation can't be used in a valid XHTML Basic document. However, you can extend XHTML Basic if you want to. This enables the creation of additional subsets and extensions.

Listing 3 shows a simple XHTML Basic page suitable for display on a small, wireless device such as a PDA. The listing clearly illustrates how XHTML Basic uses the structural elements set forth in XHTML 1.0, only this time the DTD that's declared is for XHTML Basic itself. The namespace is the same, as are the syntactical methodologies.

Bring It On Home
The developer who's empowered with knowledge can make better decisions. Whether you embrace client-side XML in the form of XHTML is up to you. But a careful survey of your needs and directions will help answer the question of whether XHTML will be useful in your unique situation. Being aware of what's happening with XHTML and its goals will keep you at the ready should your circumstances require you to develop not only for the Web of tomorrow, but for the wireless world and beyond.

More Stories By Molly E. Holzschlag

Molly E. Holzschlag is the executive editor of WebReview.com. She is the author of 16 books on Internet and Web design and development topics, including her most recent, Special Edition Using XHTML, from Que. You can visit her Web site at www.molly.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
European data center operator DEAC is the largest in the Baltics. The activities are orientated to provide data center services and IT outsourcing on Eurasia and America scale in order to create the primary or backup or additional data center for customer in the EU, to protect its business and, most importantly, reduce costs up to 40% within 3-5 years. DEAC is an IT outsourcing services and solutions company whose highly experienced and qualified employees offer various groups of services and...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
Dyn solutions are at the core of Internet Performance. Through traffic management, message management and performance assurance, Dyn is connecting people through the Internet and ensuring information gets where it needs to go, faster and more reliably than ever before. Founded in 2001 at WPI, Dyn’s global presence services more than four million enterprise, small business and personal customers.
Until recently, many organizations required specialized departments to perform mapping and geospatial analysis, and they used Esri on-premise solutions for that work. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dave Peters, author of the Esri Press book Building a GIS, System Architecture Design Strategies for Managers, will discuss how Esri has successfully included the cloud as a fully integrated SaaS expansion of the ArcGIS mapping platform. Organizations that have incorporated Esri cloud-based appl...
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
Ixia develops amazing products so its customers can connect the world. Ixia helps its customers provide an always-on user experience through fast, secure delivery of dynamic connected technologies and services. Through actionable insights that accelerate and secure application and service delivery, Ixia's customers benefit from faster time to market, optimized application performance and higher-quality deployments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratogent will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Stratogent is a custom managed services organization based in San Mateo, California. We design, implement, and support mission critical infrastructure 24x7 on premises, in datacenters and in the Cloud. Since 2005, we have acted as an extension of internal IT teams, achieving a customer reten...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will con...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudian, Inc., the leading provider of hybrid cloud storage solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudian is a Foster City, Calif.-based software company specializing in cloud storage. Cloudian HyperStore® is an S3-compatible cloud object storage platform that enables service providers and enterprises to bui...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual C...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing a...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
We are all here because we are sold on the transformative promise of The Cloud. But what good is all of this ephemeral, on-demand infrastructure if your usage doesn't actually improve the agility and speed of your business? How must Operations adapt in order to avoid stifling your Cloud initiative? In his session at DevOps Summit, Damon Edwards, co-founder and managing partner of the DTO Solutions, will highlight the successful organizational, process, and tooling patterns of high-performing c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurri...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue bu...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. ...
Seagate has a strong track record of collaborating with others to develop better cloud solutions. The Seagate Cloud Builder Alliance program, for example, leverages the company’s knowledge of storage and cloud-optimized solutions to give cloud service providers the customized, flexible and scalable server and storage solutions to meet the high levels of service their customers demand. Seagate also is a member of the OpenStack Foundation and Open Compute Project to help define and promote open-so...