Sorry for late answer, but there are my few coins on custom attributes.

For XHTML solution exists many years - from the beginning of XHTML itself: 
XML namespaces. Define custom attributes in custom namespace, and the 
resulting XHTML page will be perfectly valid. Example (stripped from working 

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" 
<html xmlns=""; xmlns:a="Ajaxify framework" 
xmlns:v="Form navigation and validation framework">
  <div id="content"></div>
  <a href="content.html" a:target="content" a:confirm="Update 

Works in almost any browser (IE6+, Opera 9+, Firefox 3.5+, Chrome 10+, 
Safari 4+ - each and every browser currently used by our developers, testers 
and clients), passes W3C validation. The biggest problem was escaping/not 
escaping semicolon in CSS selectors for different selector engines: 
Prototype 1.6 legacy selector and Prototype 1.7 + NWMatcher allows unescaped 
semicolon like $$("a[a:target]"), while Prototype 1.7 + Sizzle requires 
backslash $$("a[a\:target]").

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