[whatwg] Seperation of Content and Interface

Matthew Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Sun Jul 11 20:12:03 PDT 2004

On 12 Jul, 2004, at 8:46 AM, Joshua Wise wrote:
> ...
> Excellent. That's a step forward, but it still allows the user to 
> place <navigation> arbitrarily on their page. Why not do something 
> like this:
> <navigation>
> <page absolute="/index" title="Main Page" id="index" />
> <page absolute="/foo" title="Foo" etc="This has information about foo."
> id="foo" />
> <group title="Archives" dir="/archives">
> <page absolute="/archives/mailinglists" tiitle="Mailing lists" />
> </group>
> </navigation>
> and force the user to put a <page id="index"> at the top to identify 
> the page.

You mean force the author to. But who would do the forcing? The only 
force a UA could exert would be refusing to render a page; and if it 
did that, all other things being equal, the market would eventually 
replace it with UAs that *did* render such pages. That's why Opera's 
and Mozilla's position paper 
<http://www.w3.org/2004/04/webapps-cdf-ws/papers/opera.html> says 
"Error handling should for the most part be defined in terms of 
graceful error recovery (as in CSS),  rather than obvious and 
catastrophic failure (as in XML)."

> Then, in the .layout template, the user could have the title shown in 
> the title bar as "Your Site: Main Page".
> Additionally, that would provide for screen readers and the like to be 
> able to say "You are here. The parent node is x. There are y child 
> nodes. There are also z siblings."
> ...

Congratulations! You've just reinvented the LINK element, which has 
been in every version of HTML since 2.0.

If UAs presented LINK navigation in a manner that was both reliably 
visible (i.e. couldn't be turned off, just like A HREF links) and 
reliably noticable (i.e. shared the same color scheme as the page, just 
like A HREF links), Web sites wouldn't need to insert navigation bars 
into Web page text, common LINKs would be in exactly the same pixel 
position on all pages, visual browsers could optionally ignore 
navigation when printing (no need for special print style sheets that 
most sites can't be bothered with), screenreaders could optionally skip 
or postpone navigation when reading (no need for special "skip 
navigation" links that most sites can't be bothered with), and the Web 
would be much easier to use for everybody.

Unfortunately, the only UA that I know of that supports LINK navigation 
in such a fashion is Lynx. Other UAs either ignore it completely 
(Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari), or allow it to be hidden (Opera, 
Mozilla, iCab), both of which make it useless. Authors can't rely on it 
(unless they UA-sniff for Lynx), so they still have to insert 
navigation in the page text, so we're all worse off, whether we're 
sighted or not.

I don't think renaming <link> to <navigation> will help.

Matthew Thomas

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