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The future of (X)HTML and the web languages

I think that the W3C has played a major role in the process that has lead to what we have now: an extremely great tool called "the web". I'm proud to be making a small and humble contribution to this organization. However, I don't think everything in the W3C is shining perfection. Everyone can make mistakes. My concern is that the current situation of the (X)HTML languages within the W3C might be one of them.

I'm an outsider, so to keep a long story short, there are two different working groups working in parallel to publish to new specifications: HTML 5 and XHTML 2. The W3C has posted a note to explain this initiative. I used to believe that XHTML was a replacement to the old HTML 4. When asked about which recommendation was the "newest" and "best" one to develop a new web page, I always said XHTML. I'm afraid that resuming the activity in the HTML front will raise some doubts about which one of the alternative recommendations (HTML or XHTML) is actually recommended by W3C. I think the situation is prone to confusion. For instance, the brand new book on REST web services I'm reading now, talks about something called "XHTML 5" (???) that is the replacement of the previous "XHTML 4" (???). The authors inadvertently mixed the acronyms and the version numbers of HTML and XHTML.

I don't want to start a discussion on the technical merits of each language, or their backwards compatibility, or their ease of use. While I understand the arguments in the W3C note, I can't fully share them. I also understand Tim's plan to provide an easy path for web developers to move forward, without big leaps. Perhaps the problem is just one of vocabulary. Or perhaps it is not (see, for instance, this phrase from the HTML 5 draft: "Generally speaking, authors are discouraged from trying to use XML on the Web, because XML has much stricter syntax rules than the 'HTML5' variant described above, and is relatively newer and therefore less mature"). Anyway, my hope is that this movement won't be the first step into a future fragmentation of the web.