XTech Day Two: XHTML and the WHATWG

Some notes from day two of the XTech conference.
A more mixed selection of talks for me yesterday:

But the two talks that really dominated yesterday and had the halls a-buzzin’ were Steven Pemberton’s on the design principles and new features of XHTML2, and Ian Hickson’s review of the work of the WHATWG to propose extensions to HTML4 and the DOM.

I’ve previously been concerned about the direction of XHTML2 as it seemed to be getting further and further away from the daily issues in web development.
Pemberton described the design goals behind XHTML2 which were to: use generic XML features where-ever possible; focus less presentation and more on structure, usability; accessibility; better I18N; better device independence; forms improvements; reduce need for scripting; and (most interesting to me) better semantics.
Pemberton observed that one of the difficulties in achieving movement on (X)HTML is in getting buy-in and consensus from all the differing communities that each believe XHTML is their standard. He then went on to summarise the pragmatic decisions they’d made in attempts to address the needs of each community.
I won’t summarise the details of all the new features, but the new support for metadata is very interesting. Micro-formats look like they’ll get a boost from XHTML, but with a standard (and clearly defined) interpretation of XHTML (via GRDDL) as RDF, these should now be fully integrated with the semantic web. Pemberton joked that with XHTML2 we don’t need RSS anymore.
Pemberton’s session proceeded Hickson’s and the room remained packed for both, although it got lively (in both the room and the IRC channel) during Hickson’s presentation which focussed primarily on the number of new HTML extensions (“HTML 5”) that the WHATG are proposing.
I was sympathetic to the general aims (making web development saner), but found myself inevitably drawn more to the structured approach of the HTML working group than the ad hoc HTML extensions that the WHATWG are specifying. I’m concerned with the profusion of new elements being added; I saw the shades of “marguee” and “blink” lurking in the corner of the room. Hickson was quick to point out that unlike previous extensions theirs were being openly specified and had backing from several big browser vendors: Apple, Opera and Mozilla. All of which are shortly shipping support for some/all of the features.
The main area of discomfort, and the focus of more than one corridor debate in the afternoon, was the relationship between the WHATWG and the W3C. Both sides (a number of W3C luminaries were in the audience) refused to be drawn on the topic. The W3C team comment on the Web Forms 2.0 submission contains some telling comments: “[we] strongly recommend that future work in this area should be in collaboration with the HTML and XForms Working Groups
See the Q&A that I summarised in the Wiki for a flavour of the audience’s questions.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we ate Japanese but didn’t
find time for nun bowling.