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Bring up the concept of standards compliance at your favorite Web guru hang-spot, and you'll be told point blank that it's not nice to talk in abstracts.

Web standards, defined and monitored by the World Wide Web Consortium, also known as the W3C, have existed since the beginning in order to keep all of us Web page builders, code jockeys and application developers on the same page, as it were. If everyone played by the rules and built perfectly standard-compliant pages, the Web would be faster, purely cross-platform, and an immeasureably less frustrating place to get work done. However, the more funky tricks we learn, the more we are tempted to use them, and the more quickly our fortress of idealism comes crashing down.

Even with all of the negative talk against standards, notably the industry's difficulty in producing a standards-compliant browser, things seem to be slowly moving in the direction of a standardized Web. When that day finally arrives, can't you just see yourself mindlessly going through every page on your site and updating it to make it standards-compliant? What a chore!

What if I were to tell you that there is an extensible language not far from regular HTML that you can use to build pages with two personalities -- pages that will work not only in today's browsers but tomorrow's as well? Hold on tight, because I'm also going to tell you that learning this language in a snap.

Enter XHTML, or Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, in which elements of HTML have been combined with XML 1.0 to make a single language. This article is not going to make a standards guru out of you. I'm not going to hold your hand until you are flawlessly producing compliant Web pages based solely on information you learned by reading this article. Instead, I will point you in the direction of the actual standards documents, most of which are very readable but lack the help one often needs to get started. This article should get you started writing XHTML 1.0 documents. If all goes well, at the end you will be able to refer to the actual standards documents for any questions you have.

As of this writing, XHTML 1.1 is still in draft form. It is being developed to use a different organizational makeup than XHTML 1.0. XHTML 1.0 is intended to be a transition from HTML to XHTML 1.1 or later, though it should be close to the same. The main goal of XHTML is to get your documents to the point where they are XML compliant, then XML tools such as XSL can be used.

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