HTML 4.0 and RosettaNet Story

David Megginson david at
Mon Sep 6 12:52:32 BST 1999

Christopher Lane writes:

 >   Sorry to be harsh, but I almost never see the required HTML 4.0
 > DOCTYPE declaration at the top of Web pages |
 > Sorry, David, you haven't seen any of the documents that I've written
 > for my company's intranet, because I've used the required 4.0 DOCTYPE
 > declaration on all my documents for at least two years.  Before that I
 > used the 3.2 version.  I've also used the 'transitional' version because
 > we have so many people in the company who've never figured out how to
 > upgrade their browser from NS 2.0 or 3.0.

Sure, lots of us have, but we're (a) specialists and (b) too small
even to form a drop in the bucket.  Personally, I've created a few
thousand HTML 3.2 and 4.0 pages.

 > My company (IBM) is also very heavily involved in pushing XML into
 > reality, and since the advent of the XHTML 1.0 proposal, I've
 > started using that as my standard.

OK, let's run a quick sanity check on IBM's top-level Web page
( as of 19990906T0635-0400:

1. It contains a DOCTYPE declaration for HTML 3.2, not HTML 4.0 (I
   wouldn't expect it to be using XHTML yet, since XHTML is not a
   REC, but IBM obviously hasn't bothered with HTML 4.0 at this
   corporate level).

2. The page fails a parse badly, because it contains elements and
   attributes not allowed by the HTML 3.2 DTD (including <spacer> and

Granted, that's the corporate level, so I checked to see if the
researchers did any better than the marketing people.  In fact, they
did (marginally), because at least contains *no*
DOCTYPE declaration rather than a misleading one.

This isn't meant to diss IBM, but rather, to show that the state of
conformance to HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0 even among the best-behaved and
best-intentioned players.  When one player fails to conform to a
standard, it's the player's fault; when most players fail to conform,
it's the standard's fault.

 > OK, here's my question. In Saturday's newspaper (Seattle Times-Post
 > Intelligencer) I found an article on the front page of the business
 > section stating that the XML standard was "in trouble" and "will
 > certainly be delayed" because, and I'm quoting from memory here,
 > "European companies will never agree to the standard as written."
 > I haven't seen any comment in this group about what may have caused
 > such an outburst in the press.  I wondered if anyone here had any
 > insight into what this latest imbroglio may be all about.

Here's the story:

It's not about XML, but about something "RosettaNet", which happens to
use XML.  Apparently, we in the XML community are supposed to be
stunned and trembling that a major initiative like RosettaNet is in
trouble, so I'm especially embarrassed to admit that I hadn't even
heard of RosettaNet before I read the story.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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