XHTML – a follow-up on big companies stance

Just as a short follow-up to Why XHTML?, I thought I’d give you some read-worthy links to posts about it, and also bring up companies’ attitude towards it.

Lachy muses about the future and how it might be, and Tommy has written a very good piece in Doctype Declarations and Content-Type Headers, where he explains what really matters.

What I wonder is if companies really care about the level and quality of interface code they deliver, no matter if it’s HTML or XHTML.
As long as it doesn’t break miserably, it doesn’t matter. I used the Blogger service before swithcing to WordPress, and Blogger were always very quick to answer support mails, and during outages they seemed to work hard and efficiently to fix it.

With that said, I got a little saddened by something they wrote in a reply to my question about that the comment interface didn’t generate valid XHTML. The thing is, their templates (at least the ones I used) were coded using XHTML 1.0 Strict, so naturally I wanted my pages containing comments to be well-formed too.

Their reply:

However, unless it
is actually breaking functionality somewhere in Blogger or causing true
accessibility issues, it will likely be treated with a low-priority.

I think this symbolizes the general attitude of many companies: if it doesn’t break, it isn’t really that important if it is correct.
Let’s fall back on forgiving web browsers instead. But this might turn into a problem if browsers in the future will demand correct code to render it correctly.

What do you think? Are the companies right when it comes to this prioritizing, or is this exactly the attitude that holds the web back from evolving?

9 Comments

  • Box says:

    I think that the companies is doing the right thing when they do prioritize the development of correct code.

    I've come across all to many companies / developing consultans that don't even prioritize, they just don't care about it. "As long as it works for the big crowd" seems to be their position in the matter.

    The companies (and we) need to change the attitude against this, and start developing code that has a future in the next generation of browsers, careless if the browser is in a PDA, PC, Mac or Digital-Tv.

  • Indeed, they are very right. Why wouldn't they be right? This whole thing of valid code is our battle, not theirs. Not until writing valid code will help them accomplish their marketinggoals — something I'll never see happen anyway.

  • Robert says:

    Jeroen,

    That's the hard part about it. I wonder what the future web browsers will be like, if they also will rely on error handling for most web pages or if they actually will demand more well-formed code to work.

    Also, I hope the discussion about and greater demand for accessibility will bring more correct code.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    This is a common dilemma. Some of us are techno-geeks for whom it's important that things are done correctly, even the details that no 'normal' people will ever see.

    Others look only at the visual aspect. As long as it looks good, there's no reason to fix anything, because it's not broken.

    Since I'm firmly in the techno-geek camp, it would be easy for me to regard the second (far larger) group as lazy or superficial, but that's unfair. It's a difference in perspective, and I don't think either group can claim to be 'right'.

    I work closely with non-technical people, and their 'no need to do anything that makes no visual difference' attitude was hard for me to handle at first. It still is, at times, but I'm learning to accept their point of view. Of course, I still nag on them to fix these things, because even though the shortcomings may not be visible to them, they may be for others. It's an accessibility issue.

    As for commercial corporations, of course they won't spend any time and money unless they have to. Our only way to influence them is to 'vote with our wallets.' Don't buy or use products with poor quality. That's often easier said than done, though.

  • Robert says:

    Tommy,

    Taking accessibility into respect is definitely one of the way to influence decision makers.

    Another selling point to persuade the people making the business decisions, is saving money. If all code is correctly written, it can be:

    a) Easily understood by other developers.

    b) Lifted into another web page as sort of a snippet and it will work and not break that page if it's well-formed (this is common in portal solutions).

    c) Ready to be migrated into an XSLT file, no conversion needed at all if it's well-formed XHTML.

    d) Forward compatible (like Box mentioned above) in that sense that it will work on other devices such as cell phones, PDAs, Digital TV boxes etc, if it is correct XHTML (unfortunately not forward compatible with XHTML 2, since that won't be backwards compatible).

    These reasons are about making development faster and more flexible, hence saving money for the company.

  • Faruk Ates says:

    From a certain perspective, it's very easy to say and prove that those companies are wrong.

    The invalid markup prevents their system from being future-proof, and from being compatible with any other system. Invalid markup cannot be integrated with other applications, and in that sense, it's a potentially gigantic issue. What if Blogger suddenly wants to mix their service with some application that has become insanely successful? They would now have to convert their entire content database for it, and the longer they keep this attitude up, the more they are undermining their own freedom to expand their services to other applications.

  • Robert says:

    Faruk,

    I definitely agree about Blogger and other companies that take that stance.

    Then, of course, it's always the discussion of what code is actually future-proof. 🙂

  • Faruk Ates says:

    That's very simple: valid and well-formed XHTML is the most future-proof you can get right now. If anything, it's guaranteed that you can let your content interact with anything that can deal with XML, and in today's world, that's a lot. More important however, is that in tomorrow's world, it may be so much more than "a lot" — it may be "almost anything"! Who knows! The one thing I know is that it's infinitely more likely that XML becomes even much more widely used than it already is, than that Any other form is going to rise out of nowhere and become a bigger player.

  • Robert says:

    That is true, I share your belief that XML will get bigger and bigger.

    I personally also really like the factor you mention with interoperability between systems and different web pages if the content is in well-formed XML.

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