What is XHTML? --
"XHTML documents are XML conforming. As such, they are readily viewed, edited, and validated with standard XML tools."
XML Start-Tags, End-Tags, and Empty-Element Tags
This one is a bit more long-winded, since the xml recommendation is aimed towards application designers and the parsing of xml documents. But, in essence, in order to be a well-formed document, all elements must either have a closing tag </TAG>, or be an empty tag. <TAG />
What does this mean to Joe Web developer? Well, first of all, closing many of the tags that HTML1,2,3,4 web browsers comprehend as empty elements with </TAG> can have undesired effects. </BR> for example, often generates a hard return on browsers up to and including MSIE 5.0, but not always. If memory serves, MSIE 4 on the Macintosh disregards </BR> entirely, which is the behavior closest to desirable for XHTML documents.
Using the empty tag syntax, </TAG>, results in even more wildly varying results. Some browsers will completely ignore the tag, considering it to be some malformed text, due to the habit of WWW browsers of trying to outthink bad web designers.
The point is, the usage of XHTML is not something to be taken lightly, and once you /have/ managed to work your way around all the landmines, what exactly have you gotten? An HTML document that can be easily parsed by XML parsers into a DOM tree, etc.
It is MNSHO that we would be much better served by not going half-measures with XHTML, and proceed directly to XML, CSS & XSLT. Server-side XSLT can perform the transformations for browsers incapable of XML/XSL, and client-side XSLT can be used with newer browsers, giving them the option of rearranging your XML content in whatever way suits the user, be they blind, using one of those silly phones, their PDA, a serial term, or integrating it into a compound document.
Just my $0.01.
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