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A gathering in May, 1998 of industry organizations and companies decided that HTML needed to be re-created as an XML application to meet the current and future needs of an ever-diversifying application and presentation market. To that end, the W3C created the "XHTML 1.0" recommendation, which is basically a re-casting of HTML 4.0 in XML syntax. Further documents componentize this capability further.
XHTML 1.0 defines distinct XML namespaces for the three separate HTML 4.0 DTDs - Strict, Transitional and Frameset. The extensibility and flexibility of XML will allow for HTML to be broken down even further, which will allow the language to be more easily broken up for light-weight devices or easily extended in the future - possibly for uses and applications that can not even be foreseen at this point. The "X" in XML stands for "eXtensible", after all.
"Modularization of XHTML"
This document breaks up XHTML 1.0 into even smaller pieces - these small DTD modules will allow light-weight devices to deliver content without seriously hampering the process, while still being able to say "yes, I conform to the XHTML standards." It has been acknowledged that it is no longer reasonable to expect all browser-like devices to render HTML/XHTML in its entirety, especially as the diversity of products continues to grow. So, this modularization is an attempt to help break down XHTML to its essential components. Of the numerous XHTML modules, many are expected to be extended as time passes to allow the language to grow without interrupting the "core" of XHTML.
This document specifies a sub-set of the XHTML modules (as mentioned previously) to be "required" by any device claiming to support XHTML. It is a way to specify a minimum common base of functionality (a "core") to be supported by all browser-like devices. It includes basic phrasal elements, hyperlinks, images, objects, and basic forms/tables.