HTML 5, cutting edge?

An article, posted more than 10 years ago filed in w3, html, html5, xhtml, canvas & technology.

I recently started my own business. Hence I am in need of a consistent style. That also includes a style for print. Since love the web, I thought I should use a proper CSS print template, instead of having a Word / OpenOffice Writer or whatever template. But print-quality CSS-print stylesheets? I had to go back to researching HTML and CSS again, something I gave up when standards more or less settled on CSS2 and XHTML1 and only browser vendors had to catch up with the standards. Roles have changed now, browser vendors like those behind Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera are pushing the standards to another level. But things are so chaotic! It seems we’re going back to 1997, the year Internet Explorer 4 was released, pushing the limits of the standards way beyond what was possible at that time with cool effects, 3D plugins and more.

While the W3 consortium was working slowly but consistently on the clean up of the old HTML standard with XHTML2.0, the WhatWG group was rushing new ideas resulting in a messy draft standard. Efforts on the XHTML 2.0 standard, in the meanwhile, have been stopped in favour of HTML5. Cool things have evolved from the HTML5 process, like Canvas for drawing and pushing inclusion of video codecs in browsers. But with HTML5 also sloppy tags like ‘<figure>’ and ‘<figcaption>’ (for grouping ‘figures’ and their captions), ‘<nav>’ (for denoting the navigational section of a page) are introduced, which are so specific, they feel like the new ‘<bold>’ and ‘<i>’ - mixing mark-up with content.

Additionally, it hasn’t adopted XHTML2’s innovations like the <h> tag that, dependent on the <div>hierarchy, acts as a first level, second, … level heading, an could, euh should, lead to deprecating <h1>,<h2>, etc.  and <di> to group definition terms (<dt>) and descriptions (<dd>), solving a flaw in today’s definition lists (it’s hard to tell which term belongs to which definition).

Maybe its a bit of an academic attitude, but I would rather see XHTML to stabilize on a simple but effective basic set of elements, focussed on linked content description (rather than mark-up) that can easily be extended with all sorts of new techniques in a standard way that add features like new ways of linking graphics, video etc. With XHTML 1.1 this effort was started, but it still inherits much of the pre HTML4 era.

By mixing all these messy tags with nice features such as web application support (although I haven’t dived into the specifics of its workings) and Canvas (which also shouldn’t deserve its own tag, as it doesn’t contain any XML) is a kind of show stopper for me. I’d love to use the good parts of HTML5, yet I would prefer to use them as additions to the existing standards (e.g. XHTML1.1), and go for piecemeal growth in standards adoption instead having this slow, boring, debate on specifications.

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