aka Web Standards do exisit
As Edward O’Connor pointed out in a comment on my previous post there is an ISO standard for HTML, ISO/IEC 15445:2000, the details can been viewed via the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Department of Computer Science site.
Other than the fact that this standard is fairly obscure, it was developed by ISO (International Standards Organization) and IEC ( International Electrotechnical Commission) in conjunction with the W3C some eight years ago, I have not seen a mention of it in the literature and a google search of HTML ISO standard reveals the the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Department of Computer Science site as the top result. This is probably due to ISO control over their standards and not releasing them for public consumption, but selling them to standards users. This might work for manufacturers of precision products, but fails badly for creators of web pages. Distribution definitely needs to be improved.
The ISO/IEC 15445:2000 standard is a standardista’s wet dream, it appears to be very specific about certain elements should be used. For example with headings the WC3 HTML 4.01 recommendations state:
A heading element briefly describes the topic of the section it introduces. Heading information may be used by user agents, for example, to construct a table of contents for a document automatically.
There are six levels of headings in HTML with H1 as the most important and H6 as the least. Visual browsers usually render more important headings in larger fonts than less important ones.
With no requirements on how headings should be use semantically to mark up a document. You could just use any number of <H6> and met the W3C recommendation. On the otherhand the ISO/IEC 15445:2000 standard is far more specific:
<H1> element shall not be followed by an <H3>, <H4>, <H5> or
<H6> element without an intervening <H2> element.
An <H2> element shall be preceded by an <H1> element.
So now we have a clear standard, should we use it? I am a fan of XHTML, I like the idea of making pages machine readable and like use cutting edge practices for non critical sites like this blog. However, I am giving serious consideration of using ISO/IEC 15445:2000 for any pages I create for work, because it is the professional thing to do.