[whatwg] Web Forms 2.0 Feedback

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Thu Jan 6 08:58:14 PST 2005

I'll reply to the rest of the thread when I deal with Web Apps comments 
(I'm concentrating on Web Forms for now) but I just wanted to jump in to 
explain how I make the distinction:

On Thu, 6 Jan 2005, James Graham wrote:
> HTML by it's nature has weak semantics. That means that elements should 
> conatin some information ("this is a list not a set of paragraphs", 
> "these characters are superscripted and so not part of a word") that the 
> UA can use, as far as it is able, to provide an appropriate interface to 
> the document. It does not mean that every element has to have a 
> precidely defined meaning in the sense that you criticise <sup> and 
> <sub> for lacking. To do better you need highly domain-specific 
> languages.

You can determine if an element is semantic or presentational by asking 
yourself how you would write the speech stylesheet for the markup.

In the case of <li>, you could easily imagine making a speech stylesheet 
for it by numbering the items ("One: Bla bla. Two: Bla bla."), so it has 
some semantic value. For <b>, there simply is no speech equivalent -- it's 
clearly presentational.

For <sub>, the ideal aural rendering depends on the context, but humans 
are adept at interpreting things based on context and you could probably 
get away with rendering sub by simply prefixing its contents with the 
syllable "sub", as in "H sub-two O" for "H<sub>2</sub>O". It's not ideal, 
and for a better aural rendering you would use a speech-capable UA that 
supported ChemML, MathML, or another more appropriate standard language 
natively, and pass content to it using the appropriate domain-specific 
language. However, the fact that you can use the element to sensibly 
change the aural rendering suggests to be that it is semantic enough to be 
kept in HTML.

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

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