Simon Willison’s Weblog

XHTML for future-proof content

Don Park questions the benefits of emitting XHTML. In one sense, Don is right; publishing a whole site using XHTML in this day and age brings very little benefit and can cause a great deal of grief. But just because XHTML doesn’t provide advantages when publishing whole sites does not mean it should be written off entirely. As I’ve said on this blog many times before, XHTML offers an excellent format for future-proofing site content, especially chunks of content kept in a database. Keith D. Robinson makes some excellent points along the same lines in his latest essay, Standards, Semantic Markup, Distributed Authorship and Knowledge Management:

XHTML is, at it’s most basic, much simpler and easier to learn that traditional HTML 4.0. With a simple style guide, standard markup and CSS styles you can accomplish almost all the formatting a content author would need, just by knowing a handful of markup tags. Instead of trusting the CMS to sort out code from Word, for example, you can hand a content owner a cheat sheet with the basic tags outlined and trust that they can code their own content. I mean, really, how hard is is to learn 10 or so tags? Team this technique with a tool like Contribute and you’ve got a nice, simple and cheap process that, while doesn’t store you content in a database, keeps it in a clean, standard form you can repurpose down the road.

As for ensuring entered XHTML is valid, I think this site’s comment system does a pretty good job of showing how that can be achieved with only a small amount of server side effort.

This is XHTML for future-proof content by Simon Willison, posted on 3rd August 2003.

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Previously hosted at http://simon.incutio.com/archive/2003/08/03/futureProotContent