Blog Code Languages

Code Languages

All the factors to consider when designing a blog from scratch, and choosing a doctype for your blog and for your feed.

Why blog code language matters

Right now, the blog search engines and directories usually require valid code before you can submit. In XHTML transitional, you're more likely to have posts that validate. The blog search engines also will often stop crawling when they reach invalid code. We can expect this to improve with time, because blog search is still very new.

If you're here, you are doing your research on your blog. Somewhere along the line you've picked up a bunch of different coding words, all having to do with blogs. Some sources say your blog should be in XML, or in XHTML, and you read about syndicating your blog with RSS and Atom. It may seem complex, but actually all of these are just different kinds of XML created to serve a particular purpose.

What is XML?

XML is a code mark-up language that is designed to be "eXtensible" (meaning it can be used to do pretty much anything so long as you clearly define what it is being used for). XML is short for eXtensible Markup Language, and is very flexible.

XHTML is short for eXtensible HTML. Because XHTML strict follows all the rules of XML, it is a sub-set of XML.

There are very detailed technical explanations of XHTML and of XML available if you want to study more about that.

A very basic explanation of XML is that it is intended to allow all documents on the web (hypothetically) to follow the same standard agreed upon ways of marking up the code. All while still allowing a very flexible level of control over the data, the format and your use of it. That is what is meant by eXtensible.

XHTML is one of them, but there are lots of other common formats you'll have heard of that are all kinds of XML, including the formats for feeds. In XML, you can create very simple or very complex types of documents with everything clearly labeled and sorted just the way you want — all without breaking the rules of XML.

XML was designed because of the chaos of different kinds of web languages that were all over the place in the late 1990s, and was an attempt to bring cohesion to that. It is likely that the document formats that you see coming out in the future for use on the web will all be some kind of XML. Newer document types are all in XML, although not in as wide of use yet as HTML.

Most of the web is HTML (which stands for HyperText Markup Language). HTML will no longer be added to or changed. It ended with HTML 4. XHTML is the next mark-up language (web document language) that will be used. You can think of it as HTML 5.

XML code used in Blogs

There are just a few kinds of XML that matter to bloggers, the kind that your posts are made out of (XHTML), the kind that your blog template is made out of (XHTML) and the kind that your feed is made in (RSS and/or Atom).

For your blog's posts and public pages:

XHTML 1.0

In our experience, blog software tools often wont create valid pages in XHTML strict. This will improve with time, but for now the reality is that you will spend a lot of time tweaking your code if you use XHTML strict. That is a big part of why we recommend XHTML Transitional.

For your blog's feed:

Atom — A feed format in XML that is for "personal content publishing". Simply put, that means feeds. Here is a lot more information about Atom and a good page about Atom feed format on wikipedia. Atom is very widely supported in any kind of news aggregation. Most news-type feeds are atom feed. Also, blogger feeds are in Atom format. It is well enough supported that you can chose to makes your feeds syndicate in Atom without worry.

RSS — A feed format in XML that is well supported.

There was a disagreement between the RSS and the RSS 2 groups about what RSS should be, so now they are two separate versions of RSS, both active. People generally choose to create feeds in RSS 2 when they see two choices, so it is more widely used and better supported.

More about RSS, or about RSS 2.

What does RSS mean: RSS is commonly misunderstood as meaning "Real Simple Syndication" or a number of other things. What it actually stands for is "RDF Site Summary". Hmm, so RSS is a kind of RDF. What is RDF? RDF is a valid XML framework for handling resources and descriptions of them (Resource Description Format). So, really, it is XML RDF RSS (an extensible code for describing the resource which in this case are your blog's syndicated contents, or posts). It boils down to meaning a feed format.

Your whole blog should not be in RSS or Atom format, just the feed. If you have to choose just one format, find out which format the majority of your competition is using, and use that one.

So, Why XHTML Transitional for blogs?

Basically, it comes down to that the robots expect a blog to be XHTML. Your blog will not validate as a blog during submission if you build it in any other language. Since the majority of search engines will have no problem with XHTML Transitional, and it is easier for people to create valid code in, that is what we recommend. The blog community is really big, and while a very few sites that qualify as blogs might be made in another language, nearly all blogs are in XHTML 1.0 Transitional.

XHTML Transitional allows designers and bloggers to include in their documents the things they are used to from HTML, for instance bold and italic tags. You can't do that in XML, or XHTML strict. Also XML recommends a brand new style code. If you already know how to apply style to an HTML document you don't have to learn anything new to apply style to XHTML Transitional.

No matter what language your blog is in, you can always include any kind of document on a blog website as a link from a blog page, but not as your index page, or as the template for your blog posts to show up in.

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Want more data? Here is our Blog Glossary with our simple definitions for every term we've run into while researching blogs.

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