[whatwg] link-types

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Tue Sep 14 03:46:48 PDT 2004

On 12 Sep 2004, at 16:36, Jim Ley wrote:

> On Sun, 12 Sep 2004 17:23:55 +0200, Anne van Kesteren
> <fora at annevankesteren.nl> wrote:
>>> I thought the WHAT-WG were standardising mark-up languages and DOM's
>>> - are you proposing that they also standardise user agent behaviour
>>> and design?  I think this is unnecessay, and counterproductive to the
>>>  richness required in UA's to fulfill different communities needs.
>> I was saying, with an example, that the WHATWG should not exclude 
>> doing
>> something special for the A element with a REL attribute.
> So what exactly is your proposal about "SHOULD create a menubar" etc.
> ?  That was how I understood the initial proposal in the thread -
> specifying user agent behaviour.

I tend to agree with Jim here; we shouldn't be specifying UI.

> I don't personally find LINK menus in the slightest bit useful (and
> yes I run IE, but yes I also have link menus - well rarely these days,
> as I say they're not useful.)

Again, I agree. <link> menus (or toolbars) are, in my experience, not 
very useful. <link> elements aren't widely used and so the menu only 
activates occasionally. This is confusing and discourages users from 
bothering to learn when the menu works and how it is used.

Worse, the action of the menu is entirely unpredictable. In a 
page-based document, it's pretty obvious that the 'next' button is 
going to take you to the next page. However the <link> derived menus 
have actions that are left to the whim of the webmaster so the action 
on one site can be conceptually different to that on the next site 
(taking the user to the next article rather than the next page in the 
current article, say). This problem doesn't apply to <a> elements where 
the surrounding text provides context. I believe UI elements with 
unpredictable actions are considered to be very poor design.

The first problem is partially soluble (though more by MS and Google 
than us) - with more implementations maybe more people would use <link> 
elements. The second problem is more fundamental and I'm not sure how 
to solve it. However there is merit in the idea that <link> should be 
used for metadata links and therefore implementations should be subtle 
(e.g. pre-cacheing the page with rel=next or in some sort of advanced 
history implementation that displayed pages (both visited and 
unvisited) related to the history items), rather than upfront as a 
menu. Of course I wouldn't like to discourage anyone who finds 
menu/toolbar implementations useful, but I would be more interested in 
seeing extra values for <link> that can be used for something other 
than direct navigation.

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