[whatwg] Graceful Degradation and Mime Types [was: trailing slash]

Sam Ruby rubys at intertwingly.net
Sat Dec 2 10:49:58 PST 2006

On 12/2/06, Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt at lachy.id.au> wrote:
> Elliotte Harold wrote:
> > Most hand authors including myself don't always achieve well-formedness
> > because nothing pricks us if we don't.
> It does when you use the correct MIME type!
> > Even the tiniest annoyance from a bad page, would cause us to check the
> > error logs and fix the problems.
> The Yellow Screen of Death is about as annoying as you can get.  I
> really don't understand how you can go on about the benefits of XML
> because it requires well-formedness, but then turn around and say XML
> can be served as text/html which just makes all your arguments null and
> void.

I do.

Once upon a time, Ian Hickson noticed a problem.  People who thought
they were targeting XHTML were serving their content as text/html,
inevitably running into problems, and then looking for somebody to
blame -- anybody but themselves.

This caused Ian to write the following: http://www.hixie.ch/advocacy/xhtml

Let me extract one small fragment from that document: "authors who
wish to use XHTML should deliver their markup as

That's an excellent recommendation.  People who NEVER server their
documents as application/xhtml+xml generally run into problems like
the ones he described.

So let's agree on this: "authors who wish to use XHTML should deliver
their markup as application/xhtml+xml.

In fact, in accordance with RFC 2119, let's capitalize one word:
"authors who wish to use XHTML SHOULD deliver their markup as

 - - -

Somewhere along the way, SHOULD became dogma.  It became a MUST.  That
was unfortunate.

 - - -

At the present time, about 1/3 of my viewers are Mozilla based (mostly
Firefox), 1/3 are IE based (mostly IE5), and the rest are "other".
Let's say that I serve my content as xhtml (proper mime type and
everything) to about half of them (Firefox+Opera+Safari).  That's a
substantial subset.  That substantial subset includes me.

I think that it is fair to say that if there is any benefit to my
serving my content as application/xhtml+xml, I get it.  I get the
"benefit" of draconian error processing.  I get the benefit of being
able to embed both SVG and MathML on my blog and on my planet.

How do I serve my content the rest of the time?  As text/html.  Why?
Because I believe in graceful degradation.

My site is usable even in Lynx.

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