xhtml, the standard, was first released back in 2000. Roughly five years later we begin to see major websites revised to use this standard.
Even Microsoft, presents their primary homepages, msn.com and microsoft.com in xhtml.
Standards compliant xhtml sites are still the minority. The reason is simple. When the w3c released the new standard, the rest of the web running on html did not cease to function. Nor will the rest of the web, written in various flavors of html, cease to function any time soon.
Without any pressing need to conform to the new standard, designers continue to use old, familiar methods. These methods will perform in any modern browser, so why bother switching?
benefits of xhtml
There are 2 primary benefits to using xhtml.
First is the strict nature of valid xhtml documents. "Valid" documents contain no errors. Documents with no errors can be parsed more easily by a browser. Though the time saved is, admittedly, negligible from the human user's point of view, there is a greater efficiency to the browser's performance.
Most modern browsers will function well in what's usually referred to as "quirks" mode, where, in the absence of any on-page information about the kind of html they are reading, present a "best guess" rendering of a page.
The quirks mode will also forgive many errors in the html. Modern browsers installed on your home computer have the luxury of size and power to deal with these errors.
When browser technology makes the leap to other appliances it may not have the size and power to be so forgiving. This is where the strict, valid documents demanded by the xhtml standard become important.
The second benefit is in the code itself, which is cleaner and more compact than common, "table" based layout in html.
Though xhtml retains table functionality, the standard makes clear tables are not to be used for page layout or anything other than displaying data in a tabular format.
This is generally the primary obstacle most designers have with moving to xhtml. The manner in which many designers have come to rely on to layout and organize their pages is now taboo. Simple visual inspection of xhtml code reveals how light and efficient it is in comparison to a table based html layout.
xhtml makes use of cascading style sheets (css), which, when called externally, remove virtually all styling information from the xhtml document itself. This creates a document focused solely on content.
Clean code has multiple benefits.
It creates a smaller page size which, over time, can save costs associated with transfer usage. Though the size difference may appear small, for someone running a highly trafficked site, even saving a few kilobytes of size can make a big difference.
Further, some believe search engines may look more kindly on standards complaint pages. This is only a theory, though. In a general sense, any page modification that makes the content easier to reach and higher in the code is considered wise.
search engines, so it is believed, prefer to reach content quickly, and give greater weight to the first content they encounter. Using xhtml allows website designers to accomplish this task more easily.
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