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A Zing Too Far

Fred Blasdel said:

You’ll always draw ire for having stumbled into being the Chief of the cargo-cult side of Web Standards, with so-called ‘XHTML’ as the false idol. You did a lot of good, but not without ambiguating the nomenclature with a lot of feel-good bullshit.

You often find yourself as a mediator between designery folks (who you have a strong grasp over) and technical implementors (who will always hold a grudge against you for muddying the discourse). Asking people to wear blue toques does not particularly affect this balance.

“Cargo cult.” I love that phrase. But I’m not sure I agree with your assessment.

XHTML, with its clearer and stricter rules, came out just as many of us were rediscovering semantic markup and learning of its rich value in promoting content. It wasn’t a coincidence that we took this W3C specification seriously and helped promote it to our readers, colleagues, etc. The stricter, clearer rules of XHTML 1.0 helped enforce a new mindset among web designers and developers, who had previously viewed HTML as an “anything goes” medium (because browsers treated it that way, still do, and quite probably always will; indeed HTML5 codifies this, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

Future versions of XHTML became a dead-end not because there was no value in strict, semantic, structural markup, but because the people charged with moving XHTML forward lost touch with reality and with developers. This is why HTML5 was born.

That’s history and it’s human behavior. But those subsequent twists and turns in the story don’t mean that standardistas who supported XHTML 1.0 (or still do) and who used it as a teaching tool when explaining semantic markup to their colleagues were wrong or misguided to do so.

That some technical people in the standards community think we were wrong is known, but their belief does not make it so.

That a handful of those technical people express their belief loudly, rudely, and with belligerent and unconcealed schadenfreude does not make their point of view true or persuasive to the rest of us. It just makes them look like the close-minded, socially maladroit, too-early-toilet-trained, tiny-all-male-world-inhabiting pinheads they are.

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=3108

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hi! I’m a principal designer at Automattic, Inc. Also: Publisher and founder, A List Apart “for people who make websites.” Publisher and co-founder, A Book Apart—brief books for people who design, write, and code. Co-founder and co-host, An Event Apart UX & front-end conference. Faculty, MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts, NYC. Host, The Big Web Show. Have written two books, notably ”Designing With Web Standards,“ currently in its 3rd Edition, and, on last count, translated into 15 languages and used as a text in 85 universities.