In the Christmas Quiz II posting I asked the question:

The current version of HTML is XHTML 1.1. What is the next version likely to be:

There were two responses to this question which I will discuss in more detail:

  1. patrick h. lauke Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 3:16 pm eactually, i’d say:* the current version of HTML is HTML 4.01.
    * the current version of XHTML is XHTML 1.1.
    * development is now under way (via WHAT-WG) for HTML 5.0 (and since a few people involved in browser manufacturers sit on the WHAT-WG, some implementation is already happening at browser level – e.g. the CANVAS element). this will be the next HTML version.
    * XHTML 1.1 is, as far as i know, the last backwards-compatible exercise of redefining HTML in XML form.
    * XHTML 2 breaks with backwards-compatibility and will be the new frontier, particularly when taking advantage of the true nature of the eXtensibility aspect and mixing in other vocabularies…but browser support is a big potential stumbling block here.
  2. Phil Wilson Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 8:12 pm eI agree with Patrick, I don’t think the question gives enough detail. Tragic though they may be, these differences are important.Personally I’d like to see HTML 5 be the next “standard” that everyone’s developing against.

Both respondents (both of whom keep themselves well informed on Web standards developments) are aware of the growing tensions in the standards community related to future developments to (X)HTML.

There is a naming problem which adds to the confusion (and you thought RSS and RSS was confusing enough!). I have always regarded XHTML as HTML (it just happens to be expressed as an XML application, rather than an SGML DTD). This was how W3C described it when XHTML 1.0 was announced – “HTML is dead; there will be no HTML 5!; long live XHTML 1, the new HTML” (OK, not quite in those terms!).

However others keep the distinction between XHTML and HTML. So, in order to clarify the question to both camps, perhaps the question should have been phrased “Which is likely to be the next version of the native document format for the Web?” But that would also have led to differing interpretations.

My response would therefore be the next version of the next version of the native document format for the Web will be determing by the marketplace. W3C (and, by assocciation) W3C member organisations have been backing XHTML 2.0 (which, as Patrick mentions, is not backwards compatible) whereas the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHAT-WG), which includes Opera and Mozilla browser vendors, are arguing for an evolutionary development to HTML 4 which will provide richer interactivity through a language which is (even more confusingly) referred to as either HTML 5 or XHTML 5 on the WHATWG home page!

In the early stages of development of new standards there are often fierce debates to be had. At the end of the process a compromise may be reached (but whether this compromise is a fusion of the best features from both camps or a flawed political fudge is another question).

It is to be hoped that a sensible decision is arrived at eventually. But if this doesn’t happen, whose camp would you support: W3C and Microsoft’s or Mozilla and Opera’s?!

A scary tale for Christmas?!