Notable Web Acronym Makes Way for Another

John Makulowich

By John Makulowich

Apropos the start of a new year ?the millennium starts next year ? a major milestone for the Internet arrived Jan. 26. It signaled the end of an era and the beginning of a new stage for the World Wide Web.

I am talking about the passing of HTML as the markup lingua franca and the ascendancy to the Web throne of XML (extensible markup language), a universal tagging structure that will serve as a foundation for device-independent Web access. It allows commerce to come full force on the Net and will change the way we use this ubiquitous medium in ways we can only just imagine.

The event was marked by the issuance of the XHTML 1.0 specification as a recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium ( The consortium W3C, headed by Tim Berners-Lee, who created HTML, noted, "This new specification represents cross-industry and expert community agreement on the importance of XHTML 1.0 as a bridge to the Web of the future."

The W3C recommendation release is akin to publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal. It indicates that the specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability and was reviewed by the W3C membership. Moreover, it means the membership supports its adoption by the industry.

HTML, or hypertext markup language, is the tagging scheme used by individuals to prepare documents that can be rendered by Web browsers.

Do this the next time you use your browser, for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5. Access a file on the Web. After it comes up in all its vivid glory, first click on the menu item, View, then click on Source. You will see the HTML tags used to produce the page the way the author intended. On your screen at the top will be tags that look like this: <html>, <head>, <style>.

As the W3C said, the challenge in designing XHTML 1.0 was to create the next-generation scheme for documents without undermining what is already on the Web in millions of hypertext documents or Web pages. A second challenge was to produce a markup language to support device independence. The solution: Take HTML 4, the latest specification, and rewrite it as an XML application. The result is XHTML 1.0, which lets authors produce documents that can be rendered by HTML browsers as well as processed by XML-enabled software.

The benefits of the XML syntax, according to W3C, are extensibility and modularity. Web page authors can move beyond the fixed tags found in HTML to mix and match them with elements from other XML languages. Such languages include multimedia (synchronized multimedia language), mathematical expressions (MathML), two-dimensional vector graphics (scalable vector graphics) and metadata (resource description framework).

If you are anxious about the transition from HTML 4 to XHTML 1.0, the W3C offers instruction and tools. Find them under the section, "HTML Compatibility Guidelines," of the XHTML 1.0 recommendation at the URL cited above.

To contact John Makulowich, send e-mail to; his Web address is or

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