[whatwg] Semantic styling languages in the guise of HTML attributes.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com
Wed Dec 20 06:19:21 PST 2006

Matthew Raymond wrote:
> A "semantic styling language" would be a language to assign semantics
> to elements in a manner similar to how CSS controls their presentations.
> One could change attributes like |href| and |rule| into style sheet
> properties and they'd still work in the exact same way, except that you
> would be able to use selectors rather than placing them on each element
> individually.

To be honest, I still don't understand this explanation. Is this a
roundabout way of defining a "semantic styling language" as an (X)HTML
that uses (X)HTML attributes as well as elements to express meaning?
(Which is of course true of HTML 4 already, and even more true of the
proposed XHTML 2.)

> HTML elements themselves would no longer have any meaning. They would
> just be targets for semantic property assignment. Think about what
> happens to the <a> element if |href| allows every element to be a hyperlink.

I don't see how that matters at all. It seems to me that what's crucial
is that if authors are going to /rely/ on any semantic elements or
attributes, that user-agents should be guaranteed to express those
semantics to users in a usable fashion. This is my central worry about
microformats, especially when people starting trying to hide data within
attributes rather than exposing it as text content, and it is also my
central worry about XHTML2's role module.

> Semantics can interact in ways presentation never could. For
> instance, what happens when you put |href| on an <input> element?

No idea. What happens with <a href="http://www.example.com"><input
name="foobar"></a> ?

>  What does <h1 role="note"> mean? 

No idea. What would <note><h1>Foobar</h1></note> mean?

> This is also a problem with microformats that don't specify what elements certain classes, et
> cetera, can be used on.

Now /that/ is a real problem, but it is little different in type to
specifying what elements contain, or can contain, what other elements.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

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