[whatwg] Semantics in HTML

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Wed Nov 1 14:53:19 PST 2006

Anne van Kesteren wrote:
>> [...] I also don't know which view best fits my position because I 
>> don't really understand what people are trying to achieve with (the 
>> markup in) HTML -- I think there are things I would change in the 
>> current draft, but there seems little point talking about which markup 
>> elements should or shouldn't exist without having some overall 
>> framework against which the merit of various proposals can be measured.
> How would such a framework be defined?

I think "measured" might have been a bit of a strong word, implying some 
sort of quantitative assessment. What I really mean is just qualitative 
- an idea of the class of use cases that an element or attribute should 
satisfy to be included in the spec, and a idea of how tightly 
constrained the use of various elements should be. So, for example, is 
the point of the <em> element to allow authors to mark text as 
emphasized, with no regard for whether UAs can plausibly use this 
information, or is it because emphasized text benefits from a default 
presentation different to standard paragraph text in a variety of media? 
   Obviously there are views between these extremes of idealism and 
pragmatism, as well as other issues like UAs which aggregate information 
e.g. search bots which complicate the situation, so I am interested to 
see what, exactly, people perceive as the problem that semantic markup 
solves [1].

I think I tend toward the pragmatic end i.e. we should be looking to do 
things that solve definite problems for users of general purpose UAs and 
not worry so much about things that provide metadata for the sake of 
metadata, but I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise about this.

[1] This is distinct from the problem solved by not using presentational 
markup; one could use <div> and <span>, a bunch of classnames and CSS to 
get a document that renders nicely in multiple media, has complete 
separation of structure and content and is entirely free of semantic markup.

"The universe doesn't care what you believe. The wonderful thing about 
science is that it doesn't ask for your faith, it just asks for your 
eyes" --- http://xkcd.com/c154.html

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