April 10, 2001 5:40 PM PDT

XHTML cut down to cell phone size

An Internet standards group has sliced into smaller parts a language used to build Web sites, a move aimed at speeding the adoption of Web access in handheld and other non-PC devices.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday announced it has broken XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) into bite-sized parts called modules.

XHTML, a new language that is considered a replacement for HTML for Web site building, is based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), a popular new Web standard for exchanging information. Unlike HTML, which has predefined tags for information, XML allows people to define their own tags for data such as price and product. For businesses and consumers, the benefits are more concise searching and more efficient data exchange.

XHTML, which became a standard last year, breaks new ground by giving Web developers a way to mix and match various XML-based languages and documents on their Web pages. It can be used for Web pages viewed on computers and laptops but also offers a blueprint for non-PC devices--from cell phones to personal digital assistants--to pull down only the Web information that the devices can display on their screens.

The W3C in December created a stripped-down version of XHTML for small Web access devices that typically don't have much computing power and can't display all the information that Web browsers show on PCs. The smaller components announced Tuesday will allow Web content companies to better tailor their content to handheld Web devices, said W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly.

"Very few handheld devices support the full XHTML language such as frames and tables," she said. "This provides the basic methods and rules for how to subset the full XHTML into modules, so it can be easier to use for the world of devices."

For example, if a cell phone maker builds a new phone that doesn't support graphics, it can support the module for XHTML text but not support the module for graphics, she said. Software developers and device makers also could invent new XHTML modules for their devices.

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