[whatwg] The utility function for semantics in HTML

Elliotte Harold elharo at metalab.unc.edu
Sun Nov 5 04:21:28 PST 2006

Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:

> To maximize the utility (usefulness) of documents using it. But this is 
> a complicated function.
> *   Less presentational -> more medium-independent -> accessible to more
>     people -> greater utility. (Examples: people using screenreaders or
>     search engines.)
> *   More semantic -> harder to learn and understand -> fewer documents
>     using it -> less utility. (Example: DocBook.)

Excellent summary. Thank you.

I suspect there are actually two axes here, and they're not orthogonal, 
which makes the utility function even more complex.

The first axis is more vs. less semantics. For example DocBook has more 
semantics than DocBook Simplified which has more semantics than HTML.

The second axis is semantic markup vs. presentational markup. This is 
the difference between b and string, i and em.

If we mark both axes as 0 to 1, then I agree we don't want to go all the 
way to 1 on the first axis. That would be DocBook and it's too much. 
Maybe we need to be at about 0.3.

However, I would turn the second axis all the way to about 0.99, fully 
semantic, no presentation. I leave the .01 only for the default 
presentation in the absence of a stylesheet.

Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo at metalab.unc.edu
Java I/O 2nd Edition Just Published!

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