This specification defines XHTML 1.0, a reformulation of HTML 4 as an XML 1.0 application, and three DTDs corresponding to the ones defined by HTML 4. The semantics of the elements and their attributes are defined in the W3C Recommendation for HTML 4. These semantics provide the foundation for future extensibility of XHTML. Compatibility with existing HTML user agents is possible by following a small set of guidelines.
This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. The latest status of this document series is maintained at the W3C.
This document has been reviewed by W3C Members and other interested parties and has been endorsed by the Director as a W3C Recommendation. It is a stable document and may be used as reference material or cited as a normative reference from another document. W3C's role in making the Recommendation is to draw attention to the specification and to promote its widespread deployment. This enhances the functionality and interoperability of the Web.
This document has been produced as part of the W3C HTML Activity. The goals of the HTML Working Group (members only) are discussed in the HTML Working Group charter (members only).
A list of current W3C Recommendations and other technical documents can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR.
Public discussion on HTML features takes place on the mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org (archive).
Please report errors in this document to email@example.com.
The list of known errors in this specification is available at http://www.w3.org/2000/01/REC-xhtml1-20000126-errata.
XHTML is a family of current and future document types and modules that reproduce, subset, and extend HTML 4 [HTML]. XHTML family document types are XML based, and ultimately are designed to work in conjunction with XML-based user agents. The details of this family and its evolution are discussed in more detail in the section on Future Directions.
XHTML 1.0 (this specification) is the first document type in the XHTML family. It is a reformulation of the three HTML 4 document types as applications of XML 1.0 [XML]. It is intended to be used as a language for content that is both XML-conforming and, if some simple guidelines are followed, operates in HTML 4 conforming user agents. Developers who migrate their content to XHTML 1.0 will realize the following benefits:
The XHTML family is the next step in the evolution of the Internet. By migrating to XHTML today, content developers can enter the XML world with all of its attendant benefits, while still remaining confident in their content's backward and future compatibility.
HTML 4 [HTML] is an SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) application conforming to International Standard ISO 8879, and is widely regarded as the standard publishing language of the World Wide Web.
SGML is a language for describing markup languages, particularly those used in electronic document exchange, document management, and document publishing. HTML is an example of a language defined in SGML.
SGML has been around since the middle 1980's and has remained quite stable. Much of this stability stems from the fact that the language is both feature-rich and flexible. This flexibility, however, comes at a price, and that price is a level of complexity that has inhibited its adoption in a diversity of environments, including the World Wide Web.
HTML, as originally conceived, was to be a language for the exchange of scientific and other technical documents, suitable for use by non-document specialists. HTML addressed the problem of SGML complexity by specifying a small set of structural and semantic tags suitable for authoring relatively simple documents. In addition to simplifying the document structure, HTML added support for hypertext. Multimedia capabilities were added later.
In a remarkably short space of time, HTML became wildly popular and rapidly outgrew its original purpose. Since HTML's inception, there has been rapid invention of new elements for use within HTML (as a standard) and for adapting HTML to vertical, highly specialized, markets. This plethora of new elements has led to compatibility problems for documents across different platforms.
As the heterogeneity of both software and platforms rapidly proliferate, it is clear that the suitability of 'classic' HTML 4 for use on these platforms is somewhat limited.
XML™ is the shorthand for Extensible Markup Language, and is an acronym of Extensible Markup Language [XML].
XML was conceived as a means of regaining the power and flexibility of SGML without most of its complexity. Although a restricted form of SGML, XML nonetheless preserves most of SGML's power and richness, and yet still retains all of SGML's commonly used features.
While retaining these beneficial features, XML removes many of the more complex features of SGML that make the authoring and design of suitable software both difficult and costly.
The benefits of migrating to XHTML 1.0 are described above. Some of the benefits of migrating to XHTML in general are:
The following terms are used in this specification. These terms extend the definitions in [RFC2119] in ways based upon similar definitions in ISO/IEC 9945-1:1990 [POSIX.1]:
This version of XHTML provides a definition of strictly conforming XHTML documents, which are restricted to tags and attributes from the XHTML namespace. See Section 3.1.2 for information on using XHTML with other namespaces, for instance, to include metadata expressed in RDF within XHTML documents.
A Strictly Conforming XHTML Document is a document that requires only the facilities described as mandatory in this specification. Such a document must meet all of the following criteria:
It must validate against one of the three DTDs found in Appendix A.
The root element of the document must be
The root element of the document must designate the XHTML
namespace using the
xmlns attribute [XMLNAMES]. The namespace for XHTML is
defined to be
There must be a DOCTYPE declaration in the document prior to the root element. The public identifier included in the DOCTYPE declaration must reference one of the three DTDs found in Appendix A using the respective Formal Public Identifier. The system identifier may be changed to reflect local system conventions.
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Frameset//EN" "DTD/xhtml1-frameset.dtd">
Here is an example of a minimal XHTML document.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <head> <title>Virtual Library</title> </head> <body> <p>Moved to <a href="http://vlib.org/">vlib.org</a>.</p> </body> </html>
Note that in this example, the XML declaration is included. An XML declaration like the one above is not required in all XML documents. XHTML document authors are strongly encouraged to use XML declarations in all their documents. Such a declaration is required when the character encoding of the document is other than the default UTF-8 or UTF-16.
The XHTML namespace may be used with other XML namespaces as per [XMLNAMES], although such documents are not strictly conforming XHTML 1.0 documents as defined above. Future work by W3C will address ways to specify conformance for documents involving multiple namespaces.
The following example shows the way in which XHTML 1.0 could be used in conjunction with the MathML Recommendation:
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <head> <title>A Math Example</title> </head> <body> <p>The following is MathML markup:</p> <math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"> <apply> <log/> <logbase> <cn> 3 </cn> </logbase> <ci> x </ci> </apply> </math> </body> </html>
The following example shows the way in which XHTML 1.0 markup could be incorporated into another XML namespace:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!-- initially, the default namespace is "books" --> <book xmlns='urn:loc.gov:books' xmlns:isbn='urn:ISBN:0-395-36341-6' xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <title>Cheaper by the Dozen</title> <isbn:number>1568491379</isbn:number> <notes> <!-- make HTML the default namespace for a hypertext commentary --> <p xmlns='http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml'> This is also available <a href="http://www.w3.org/">online</a>. </p> </notes> </book>
A conforming user agent must meet all of the following criteria:
idattribute on most XHTML elements) as fragment identifiers.
The XML processor normalizes different system's line end codes into one single line-feed character, that is passed up to the application. The XHTML user agent in addition, must treat the following characters as whitespace:
In elements where the 'xml:space' attribute is set to 'preserve', the user agent must leave all whitespace characters intact (with the exception of leading and trailing whitespace characters, which should be removed). Otherwise, whitespace is handled according to the following rules:
Whitespace in attribute values is processed according to [XML].
Due to the fact that XHTML is an XML application, certain practices that were perfectly legal in SGML-based HTML 4 [HTML] must be changed.
Well-formedness is a new concept introduced by [XML]. Essentially this means that all elements must either have closing tags or be written in a special form (as described below), and that all the elements must nest.
Although overlapping is illegal in SGML, it was widely tolerated in existing browsers.
CORRECT: nested elements.
<p>here is an emphasized <em>paragraph</em>.</p>
INCORRECT: overlapping elements
<p>here is an emphasized <em>paragraph.</p></em>
XHTML documents must use lower case for all HTML element and attribute names. This difference is necessary because XML is case-sensitive e.g. <li> and <LI> are different tags.
In SGML-based HTML 4 certain elements were permitted to omit
the end tag; with the elements that followed implying closure.
This omission is not permitted in XML-based XHTML. All elements
other than those declared in the DTD as
have an end tag.
CORRECT: terminated elements
<p>here is a paragraph.</p><p>here is another paragraph.</p>
INCORRECT: unterminated elements
<p>here is a paragraph.<p>here is another paragraph.
All attribute values must be quoted, even those which appear to be numeric.
CORRECT: quoted attribute values
INCORRECT: unquoted attribute values
XML does not support attribute minimization. Attribute-value
pairs must be written in full. Attribute names such as
checked cannot occur in elements
without their value being specified.
CORRECT: unminimized attributes
INCORRECT: minimized attributes
Empty elements must either have an end tag or the start tag must end with
/>. For instance,
<hr></hr>. See HTML Compatibility Guidelines for information on ways to
ensure this is backward compatible with HTML 4 user agents.
CORRECT: terminated empty tags
INCORRECT: unterminated empty tags
In attribute values, user agents will strip leading and trailing whitespace from attribute values and map sequences of one or more whitespace characters (including line breaks) to a single inter-word space (an ASCII space character for western scripts). See Section 3.3.3 of [XML].
In XHTML, the script and style elements are declared as having
#PCDATA content. As a result,
& will be treated as the start of markup, and
entities such as
will be recognized as entity references by the XML processor to
& respectively. Wrapping
the content of the script or style element within a
CDATA marked section avoids the expansion of these
<script> <![CDATA[ ... unescaped script content ... ]]> </script>
CDATA sections are recognized by the XML
processor and appear as nodes in the Document Object Model, see
Section 1.3 of the DOM Level 1 Recommendation [DOM].
An alternative is to use external script and style documents.
SGML gives the writer of a DTD the ability to exclude specific elements from being contained within an element. Such prohibitions (called "exclusions") are not possible in XML.
For example, the HTML 4 Strict DTD forbids the nesting of an
a' element within another '
to any descendant depth. It is not possible to spell out such
prohibitions in XML. Even though these prohibitions cannot be
defined in the DTD, certain elements should not be nested. A
summary of such elements and the elements that should not be
nested in them is found in the normative
HTML 4 defined the
name attribute for the elements
HTML 4 also introduced
id attribute. Both of these attributes are designed to be
used as fragment identifiers.
In XML, fragment identifiers are of type
there can only be a single attribute of type
ID per element.
Therefore, in XHTML 1.0 the
attribute is defined to be of type
ID. In order to
ensure that XHTML 1.0 documents are well-structured XML documents, XHTML 1.0
documents MUST use the
id attribute when defining fragment
identifiers, even on elements that historically have also had a
See the HTML Compatibility
Guidelines for information on ensuring such anchors are backwards
compatible when serving XHTML documents as media type
Note that in XHTML 1.0, the
name attribute of these
elements is formally deprecated, and will be removed in a
subsequent version of XHTML.
Although there is no requirement for XHTML 1.0 documents to be compatible with existing user agents, in practice this is easy to accomplish. Guidelines for creating compatible documents can be found in Appendix C.
As of the publication of this recommendation, the general recommended MIME labeling for XML-based applications has yet to be resolved.
However, XHTML Documents which follow the guidelines set forth in Appendix C, "HTML Compatibility Guidelines" may be labeled with the Internet Media Type "text/html", as they are compatible with most HTML browsers. This document makes no recommendation about MIME labeling of other XHTML documents.
XHTML 1.0 provides the basis for a family of document types that will extend and subset XHTML, in order to support a wide range of new devices and applications, by defining modules and specifying a mechanism for combining these modules. This mechanism will enable the extension and sub-setting of XHTML 1.0 in a uniform way through the definition of new modules.
As the use of XHTML moves from the traditional desktop user agents to other platforms, it is clear that not all of the XHTML elements will be required on all platforms. For example a hand held device or a cell-phone may only support a subset of XHTML elements.
The process of modularization breaks XHTML up into a series of smaller element sets. These elements can then be recombined to meet the needs of different communities.
These modules will be defined in a later W3C document.
Modularization brings with it several advantages:
It provides a formal mechanism for sub-setting XHTML.
It provides a formal mechanism for extending XHTML.
It simplifies the transformation between document types.
It promotes the reuse of modules in new document types.
A document profile specifies the syntax and semantics of a set of documents. Conformance to a document profile provides a basis for interoperability guarantees. The document profile specifies the facilities required to process documents of that type, e.g. which image formats can be used, levels of scripting, style sheet support, and so on.
For product designers this enables various groups to define their own standard profile.
For authors this will obviate the need to write several different versions of documents for different clients.
For special groups such as chemists, medical doctors, or mathematicians this allows a special profile to be built using standard HTML elements plus a group of elements geared to the specialist's needs.
This appendix is normative.
These DTDs and entity sets form a normative part of this specification. The complete set of DTD files together with an XML declaration and SGML Open Catalog is included in the zip file for this specification.
These DTDs approximate the HTML 4 DTDs. It is likely that when the DTDs are modularized, a method of DTD construction will be employed that corresponds more closely to HTML 4.
The XHTML entity sets are the same as for HTML 4, but have
been modified to be valid XML 1.0 entity declarations. Note the
entity for the Euro currency sign (
€) is defined
as part of the special characters.
This appendix is normative.
The following elements have prohibitions on which elements they can contain (see Section 4.9). This prohibition applies to all depths of nesting, i.e. it contains all the descendant elements.
This appendix is informative.
This appendix summarizes design guidelines for authors who wish their XHTML documents to render on existing HTML user agents.
Be aware that processing instructions are rendered on some user agents. However, also note that when the XML declaration is not included in a document, the document can only use the default character encodings UTF-8 or UTF-16.
Include a space before the trailing
> of empty elements, e.g.
<hr /> and
src="karen.jpg" alt="Karen" />. Also, use the
minimized tag syntax for empty elements, e.g.
<br />, as the alternative syntax
<br></br> allowed by XML
gives uncertain results in many existing user agents.
Given an empty instance of an element whose content model is
EMPTY (for example, an empty title or paragraph)
do not use the minimized form (e.g. use
<p> </p> and not
Use external style sheets if your style sheet uses
external scripts if your script uses
--. Note that XML parsers
are permitted to silently remove the contents of comments. Therefore, the historical
practice of "hiding" scripts and style sheets within comments to make the
documents backward compatible is likely to not work as expected in XML-based
Avoid line breaks and multiple whitespace characters within attribute values. These are handled inconsistently by user agents.
Don't include more than one
isindex element in
is deprecated in favor of the
Use both the
attributes when specifying the language of an element. The value
xml:lang attribute takes precedence.
In XML, URIs [RFC2396] that end with fragment identifiers of the form
"#foo" do not refer to elements with an attribute
name="foo"; rather, they refer to elements with an
attribute defined to be of type
ID, e.g., the
id attribute in HTML 4. Many existing HTML clients don't
support the use of
ID-type attributes in this way,
so identical values may be supplied for both of these attributes to ensure
maximum forward and backward compatibility (e.g.,
<a id="foo" name="foo">...</a>).
Further, since the set of
legal values for attributes of type
ID is much smaller than
for those of type
CDATA, the type of the
attribute has been changed to
NMTOKEN. This attribute is
constrained such that it can only have the same values as type
ID, or as the
Name production in XML 1.0 Section
2.5, production 5. Unfortunately, this constraint cannot be expressed in the
XHTML 1.0 DTDs. Because of this change, care must be taken when
converting existing HTML documents. The values of these attributes
must be unique within the document, valid, and any references to these
fragment identifiers (both
internal and external) must be updated should the values be changed during
Finally, note that XHTML 1.0 has deprecated the
name attribute of the
elements, and it will be
removed from XHTML in subsequent versions.
To specify a character encoding in the document, use both the
encoding attribute specification on the xml declaration (e.g.
encoding="EUC-JP"?>) and a meta http-equiv statement
content='text/html; charset="EUC-JP"' />). The
value of the encoding attribute of the xml processing instruction
Some HTML user agents are unable to interpret boolean
attributes when these appear in their full (non-minimized) form,
as required by XML 1.0. Note this problem doesn't affect user
agents compliant with HTML 4. The following attributes are
The Document Object Model level 1 Recommendation [DOM] defines document object model interfaces for XML and HTML 4. The HTML 4 document object model specifies that HTML element and attribute names are returned in upper-case. The XML document object model specifies that element and attribute names are returned in the case they are specified. In XHTML 1.0, elements and attributes are specified in lower-case. This apparent difference can be addressed in two ways:
text/htmlvia the DOM can use the HTML DOM, and can rely upon element and attribute names being returned in upper-case from those interfaces.
application/xmlcan also use the XML DOM. Elements and attributes will be returned in lower-case. Also, some XHTML elements may or may not appear in the object tree because they are optional in the content model (e.g. the
table). This occurs because in HTML 4 some elements were permitted to be minimized such that their start and end tags are both omitted (an SGML feature). This is not possible in XML. Rather than require document authors to insert extraneous elements, XHTML has made the elements optional. Applications need to adapt to this accordingly.
When an attribute value contains an ampersand, it must be expressed as a character
&"). For example, when the
a element refers to a
CGI script that takes parameters, it must be expressed as
rather than as
The Cascading Style Sheets level 2 Recommendation [CSS2] defines style properties which are applied to the parse tree of the HTML or XML document. Differences in parsing will produce different visual or aural results, depending on the selectors used. The following hints will reduce this effect for documents which are served without modification as both media types:
This appendix is informative.
This specification was written with the participation of the members of the W3C HTML working group:
This appendix is informative.