[whatwg] a few comments to Webforms 2.0 Call For Comments

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Sat Jul 31 04:58:02 PDT 2004

On Jul 31, 2004, at 03:58, Matthew Thomas wrote:

> On 31 Jul, 2004, at 7:00 AM, Matthew Raymond wrote:
>> ...
>>    I recommend that, for HTML documents with the W2 doctype, there 
>> should always be a default option selected, regardless if that 
>> default is specified. Therefore, if none of the radio buttons are 
>> set, the first radio button in the group would automatically be set. 
>> If WF2 isn't specified as the doctype, we'll default to HTML 4.01 
>> behavior, even if WF2 markup is used. The WF2 spec should recommend 
>> the use of a radio button "Not Specified" for a default value if the 
>> user does not wish to select an option.
> I like that idea.

I don't.

First of all, the solution needs to apply to XHTML as well as HTML. If 
we still assume XML is to be taken seriously (and not as tag soup), 
doctype sniffing on the XML side is totally, utterly bogus. The reason 
why it is bogus is that including a DTD by reference and pasting it 
inline are supposed to be equivalent for validating XML processor and 
in the latter case you don't see a public identifier for the DTD. 
Hence, using the public identifier for any purpose other than locating 
the DTD is just plain wrong. Of course, sane real-world XHTML user 
agents use non-validating XML processors which makes the inclusion of 
the doctype declaration rather pointless. I think the current WF2 
stance of encouraging doctypelessness on the XML side is the right way 
to go.

Now, similar argumentation does not work on the HTML side if we agree 
not to pretend that real SGML is being processed. Doctype sniffing is a 
tag soup solution to a tag soup problem. Still, doctype sniffing is 
already confusing and convoluted enough for casual authors. (See 
http://iki.fi/hsivonen/doctype.html for subtle differences between user 
agents.)  I think perturbing it further is a bad idea. Besides, you 
can't force the existing installed base of browsers to do new tricks 
with doctypes which would mean different defaulting.

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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