[html5] What is the point about nav, header, footer and aside elements?

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Wed Nov 28 13:07:02 PST 2012

On Wed, 28 Nov 2012, Prof. T.D. Wilson wrote:
> "Certainly though, the semantics of HTML elements are only relatively 
> vague, and don't rise to the level of understanding the specific meaning 
> of the text of a page."
> Exactly - which is why I said that semantic tags couldn't be expected 
> any time soon :-)  I understand how this mis-naming has happened: the 
> compilers of the standard were looking for a word to describe this 
> function:
> "the same page can also be used by a small browser on a mobile phone, 
> without any change to the page. Instead of headings being in large 
> letters as on the desktop, for example, the browser on the mobile phone 
> might use the same size text for the whole the page, but with the 
> headings in bold."
> and, of course, there isn't a single word, at least not as far as I'm 
> aware in English and so, some member of the team came up with the 
> suggestion, "Let's call them semantic" and everyone happily agreed in 
> order to get out of the dilemma.  The statement above was prefaced by 
> "Because HTML conveys * meaning*, rather than presentation,..." but what 
> is described is not a transfer of meaning from the html to the screen, 
> but exactly, presentation.

This particular linguistic ship sailed some years ago now (at the latest 
the mid 90s, long before I was involved with Web standards). For all 
intents and purposes, the term "semantics" in an HTML context refers to 
the meaning of media-independant elements, as distinct from elements like 
<font> or <blink> which describe a physical presentation for a specific 
medium (typically the graphical screen or print medium).

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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