HTML5 and HTML/XHTML
Both of these syntaxes are defined by the HTML5 standard. The choice of syntax is indicated by the MIME type, which is sent in the HTTP
Content-Type header. The MIME type for HTML syntax is
text/html, and the MIME type for XHTML syntax is
This example shows an HTML document and an XHTML document including the relevant HTTP headers.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK Content-Type: text/html <!DOCTYPE html> <html lang=en> <head> <meta charset=utf-8> <title>HTML</title> </head> <body> <p>I am a HTML document</p> </body> </html>
HTTP/1.1 200 OK Content-Type: application/xhtml+xml <html xml:lang="en" xmlns="
http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>XHTML</title> </head> <body> <p>I am a XHTML document</p> </body> </html>
MIME type versus DOCTYPE
Prior to HTML5, the two syntaxes were defined by two separate specifications: HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0. The XHTML1 standard claimed that you could use XHTML by declaring a special DOCTYPE. This has however never been implemented by any browser, and has been changed in the HTML5 standard. If your page is sent as
text/html, you are not using XHTML. Note that the MIME type must be located in the
Content-Type HTTP header. If you only put it into an HTML meta tag like
<meta http-equiv=…>, it will be ignored and treated like
If you serve your pages as
text/html and believe that you are writing XHTML, you may face several problems, as described in the following articles:
- No to XHTML an excellent article from Spartanicus
- Beware of XHTML by David Hammond
- Sending XHTML as text/html Considered Harmful by Ian Hickson
- XHTML's Dirty Little Secret by Mark Pilgrim
- XHTML - What's the Point? by Henri Sivonen
- XHTML is not for Beginners by Lachlan Hunt
XHTML is supported by most modern browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. Note, however, that Internet Explorer only supports XHTML starting with version 9. Internet Explorer 8 and older will instead show a download dialog box for unknown file types when it sees an XHTML document with the correct XHTML MIME type.
Differences from HTML