Sunday, November 28, 2010

W3C XHTML2 Activity finally winding down

It's been a long road. I first started working with the W3C and it's XHTML2 (then HTML) Working Group on 27 August 1998. At the time, I didn't know that it would become the work of 12+ years. Sure, I had been involved in standards for a long time. I started with the IEEE POSIX activity before it was even called POSIX (anyone remember IEEEIX?) - sometime in 1985. That hobby spiraled into a career, and has served me very, very well.

So, it is with some regret that I look to the end of my work on XHTML at the W3C. We did a lot of good work. Some of that work has been overcome by events, of course. This industry never sits still. But, for the record, here are some of the important things this activity developed and delivered:
  • HTML 4.01 - last updated in 1999, but still the basis of most of the web.
  • XHTML 1.0 - the first baby step toward a well-formed, valid web. At its inception, we were all convinced that XML would rule the world, and HTML needed to be based upon XML if it was to survive. We were a little bit wrong.
  • XHTML Media Types - a Note that explained how to deliver the new XHTML documents to legacy user agents. Still relevant and widely used today. We have a small update for it that might still get published - you can see it here.
  • XHTML Modularization - a set of building blocks and rules that language designers could use. M12N is the basis for many activities within and outside of the W3C. It continues to be used all over the place. It started out being used only for XML DTDs, but was expanded to XML Schema (finally published recently, but complete for many years). In the next weeks we will release a final installment of this, XHTML Modularization for RelaxNG.
  • XML Events - a declarative way to define events and bind them to elements and observers. It's first version was published by the XHTML activity. It has now been taken over by the XForms activity. I hope that they will get XML Events 2 out the door at some point.
  • XHTML 1.1 - a tight, XML-centric version of XHTML based upon XHTML Modularization. We published an update to this last week, but it is a stable grammar that can be used anywhere. It is also the basis for many extended XHTML Grammars. The update last week makes it possible to validate using XML Schema, and also to use the 'lang' attribute to improve use of XHTML 1.1 documents by assistive technologies.
  • XHTML Basic - a version of XHTML targeted at the mobile community.
  • XHTML Print - a version of XHTML targeted at rendering consistently on printers.
  • XForms - an independent activity, but one that started within the XHTML activity.
  • XHTML+RDFa - another independent activity. Originally a joint task force of the XHTML2 and Semantic Web working groups. The latest version builds up this early work, but continues to take advantage of XHTML Modularization for its definitions.
  • CURIEs - a compact expression syntax for URIs. Used by RDFa, but also potentially by other specifications that need to readily reference resources without using long URIs in attributes.
  • The Role Attribute module - an independent module to add a role attribute. Useful for accessibility, but also for general semantic notation. This work has been taken on by the Protocols and Formats Working Group.
  • The Access module - an independent module to add an access element. This element would allow binding of 'keys' and events to elements. The original module has no owner, but the general work has been picked up by the Protocols and Formats Working Group.
  • XHTML 2 - a sweeping revision of XHTML. This work was never completed, but will be published in its current state as a Note.
  • XHTML Modularization 2.0 - an update to the modularization framework to accompany XHTML 2.
  • XFrames - an improvement on traditional HTML framesets.
  • XHTML 1.2 - a version of XHTML that added the role attribute, the access element, RDFa, and ARIA. This was never a formal deliverable, but was a logical extension of the work.
Wow. I have never typed that all out before! Along the way we developed an entire publication infrastructure, including our own internal markup language (xhtmlspec) for annotating sources. I am proud to have served with my colleagues on this activity. I think we did solid work. While some of this work will never come to fruition, most of it was and will continue to be used throughout the internet every day.

I will of course continue to work with this community going forward. I remain active in the RDFa and Protocols and Formats activity. I hope to assist ISO in its publication of the RelaxNG Modularization framework. And I am keeping an eye out for the next interesting 12 year project. And no, it's not HTML5!

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