XML, the better HTML? (1/4) - exploring XML | WebReference

XML, the better HTML? (1/4) - exploring XML

XML, the better HTML?

Let's face it: HTML has already passed the logical point for its further development. The W3C will finally declare version 4.0 the last in history, after a serious of questionable innovations, all the way from the <blink> tag in version 2, over frames in 3.2, to more nonsense in 4.0. While HTML has brought a tidal wave of information sharing to the world via the Web, it brought Web developers nothing but grief: Bloated browsers with incompatible implementations of slow and sometimes silly standards. But fear not, XML comes to the rescue - or, then again, not?

So is XML better?

To be honest this question has no real answer: XML is a meta language, meaning a language for defining other languages, while HTML by itself is a more or less well-defined language. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language, which is actually a bit of a misnomer as it should actually mean extensible Meta Language. The easiest way to understand the difference is to note that XML by itself does not define any tags, it only describes a way of defining your own set of tags and attributes, hence the name extensible. HTML in contrast has a fixed set of tags, and their meaning is defined in the W3C standards specifications or the implementation of a particular browser, whichever came first. So in directly comparing XML and HTML one would compare apples and oranges.

So what is wrong with HTML?

Let's look at a specific example. The following fragment of HTML shows a listing of a shopping cart containing two products, as it might appear on any of your favorite shopping Web sites:

    <H3>Your shopping cart contains:</H3>
    <TABLE BORDER="1">
      <TR BGCOLOR="#FF0000">

See it in the browser .

There are many good things to be said about HTML:

But there are also some shortcomings:


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URL: http://www.webreference.com/xml/column1/index.html
Created: Nov. 20, 1999
Revised: Dec. 09, 1999