Describe 2 Advantages Of High-Level Programing Over Machine-Language Programming XHTML- Kicking and Screaming into the Future

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XHTML- Kicking and Screaming into the Future

XHTML, the standard, was first released in 2000. About five years later we started to see major websites revised to use this standard. Even the favorite boy of standards compliance professionals, Microsoft, presents its primary pages, 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 that runs on HTML didn’t stop working. Not even the rest of the web, written in various flavors of HTML, will stop working any time soon. Without any pressing need to conform to the new standard, designers continue to use old and familiar methods. These methods will work in any modern browser, so why bother changing them?

These feelings are similar to the ones I had. A kind of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality sets in. Whether HTML was “broken” or not is a different argument. To the casual Internet user, their standards are pretty straightforward. If a site shows no noticeable errors and functions to their satisfaction, these standards are met. Whatever additional steps the browser has taken to make such a display possible is irrelevant to most users. This type of mentality is difficult to overcome in designers used to their old methods.

The technical obstacles to adopting XHTML can also be quite steep, especially for large existing websites with complex scripting. Yet the time may eventually come where the “tried and true” HTML of yesterday is little more than an ancient language, incapable of being interpreted by modern electronic devices. Whether you agree with the direction the W3C is taking in HTML development is irrelevant, you’re just along for the ride. With some persistence, getting the hang of XHTML is possible. In form, it is not as different from HTML as Japanese is from English. Knowledge of HTML gives a basic knowledge of the language, it becomes only a matter of learning a particular dialect. Even an original nay-sayer like myself managed to do it.

Benefits of XHTML

There are 2 primary benefits to using XHTML. First is the strict nature of valid XHTML documents. “Valid” documents do not contain errors. Error-free documents can be more easily analyzed by a browser. Although the time saved is, admittedly, insignificant from the point of view of the human user, there is a greater efficiency in the performance of the browser. Most modern browsers will work well in what is generally referred to as “quirks” mode, where, in the absence of any information on the page about the type of HTML they are reading, they present a “better guess” rendering of a page. Quirks mode also forgives many mistakes in HTML. Modern browsers installed on your home computer have the luxury of size and power to handle these errors. When the browser technology makes the jump to other devices it may not have the size and power to be so forgiving. This is where the strict and valid documents required by the XHTML standard become important.

The second benefit is in the code itself, which is cleaner and more compact than the common, “table” based layout in HTML. Although XHTML maintains the functionality of the table, the standard makes it clear that 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 that most designers have when moving to XHTML. The way in which many designers have come to rely on the layout and organization of their pages is now taboo. Simple visual inspection of XHTML code reveals how lightweight and efficient it is compared to a table-based HTML layout. XTHML makes use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which, when called externally, remove almost all style information from the XHTML document itself. This creates a document focused only on content.

XHTML makes use of “div” tags to define content areas. How these “divisions” appear is controlled by CSS. This is known as CSS-P, or CSS Positioning. Trading in “table” tags for “divs” can be tough. Learning a new way to perform an already familiar task is usually difficult. Like learning to use a different design program or image editor, the frustration can be constant. Looking at “divs” as a type of table cell can be useful, although they are not entirely equivalent. As required by the XHTML standard, always make sure there is a DOCTYPE definition at the top of the document. This is not only required by the standard, but it will force Internet Explorer 6, currently the most common browser, to enter its “standards compliance” mode. IE6 and Firefox, both operating in standards-compliant mode, will display XHTML in the same way. It’s not identical, but much better than IE6 which operates in quirks mode. Learning to ignore the final differences between displays is the final hurdle and may require some tweaking in the CSS.

Clean code has many benefits. It creates a smaller page size which, over time, can save costs associated with using transfer. Although the difference in size may be small, for someone who runs a highly trafficked site, even saving a few kilobytes of size can make a big difference. Also, some believe that search engines may look more kindly on standard complaint pages. This is just 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, therefore, it is believed, prefer to get to the content quickly, and give more weight to the first content they come across. Using XHTML and the “div” layout allows designers to make this task easier.

Conclusions

XHTML is the current standard established by the W3C. The W3C continues the development of XHTML, and XHTML 2.0 will replace the current standard in the future. Learning and using XHTML today will help designers prepare for tomorrow. Valid XTHML does not produce errors that could slow down a browser, and the code produced is clean and efficient. This saves on file size and helps designers better achieve their search engine optimization goals. Learning XHTML is mainly about learning a new way of laying out pages. Although frustrating at first, the long-term benefits far outweigh any initial inconvenience.

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