[whatwg] Joe Clark's Criticisms of the WHATWG and HTML 5
niels.froehling at premper.com
Tue Nov 7 15:59:48 PST 2006
> I thought Joe Clark's opinions and criticisms of the WHATWG and HTML5
> might be of interest to people here.
> I don't agree with everything he said, but he points out a lot of issues
> and lists several limitations and suggestions. Some of the suggestions
> are already included or have at least been discussed, but some a new and
> worth looking into.
I would like to put this into discussion:
A view into the past:
In the beginning HTML's only ability to define presentation was through
tags (with predefined visual behaviour/presentation) and it's modification
This obviously leaded to the invention of tags for presentational purposes.
The definition and invention of tags, it's semantic and presentational
meaning was (and is) developed by various groups with various interests,
browser-developers (who sometimes also re-used HTML for alienous
applications), work-groups and companies that really re-(or miss-)used
HTML for their proprietary needs.
Most of these groups developed/extended HTML under a commercial point of
view: 'How can I offer a feature more excessive and faster than the others'.
It was rather not developed under the LCD (least-common-denominator) of
all participants, long ignored (and still yet) the end-user.
With the shift of presentational definition away from tags and inline-
attributes to CSS, and shortly after the introduction of free-formable
HTML (in the sense of tag-name freedom) by XML the situation has
fundamentally changed, is fundamentally different.
From a technical point of view there don't exist a reason of existance
for the majority of the tags anymore (in effect most browsers do NOT make
any difference between the majority of the tags, with the ONLY exception
that they have different CSS-templates, which is a consequence of the
transition of the ability of the parser-engine to display from HTML to
XHTML to XML).
From a semantical point of view the majority of the tags are poluted/biased
by presentational meanings, and under the belief to rescue compatibility
the cleanup-forces stick with the majority of the old concepts without
attenting new needs.
The change in the paradigma:
At this point I suggest the complete break with the semantical past. And
it's easier than at any time before. There is quasi no software that
depends on semantic (except screen-readers, I'm going to talk about that
later) as mentioned above.
It's time to reflect actual streams in development of HTML; now, with the
introduction or the dusk of RIAs the semantic camp got split in three:
* metaphorical semantics (the meaning of the things)
* structural semantic (the order of the things)
* purposal semantics (the purpose of the things)
Let me denote some examples:
- <joke> marks something to be funny, sarcastic or zynic
- <strong> emphasises a content strongly
* structural (aka. define dependencies):
- <p> marks text to belong together, to be connected sentences
- <chapter> marks sections to belong together
- <formular> marks an interactive region
- <control> marks a region to be inside an interface-element
- <nav> marks a section to contain the/a navigation
- <title> marks a region to be a chapters/documents title
In the order written it's sensefull to assume, that metaphorical
semantics may be contained by structural elements, and structural
elements by purposal elements.
Though this doesn't solve the LCD-problem it makes it way more easy as
the variety within each LCD-problem becomes less much smaller (for
technicians: 2^9 < 2^3 + 2^3 + 2^3), and it has an elegant fall-back
The split of responsability and area of application makes it way more
easier to meet the needs of:
* more metaphorical semantic, which is an inherit need of screen-
readers, which is liked to be blamed for being not 'smart' enough
* more structural semantic, which is an inherit need of typography
and in effect every transportation and abstraction of information
* more purposal semantic, which is an inherit need of RIAs and
seamless integration of alien-functionality into Web-Browser
That list is not verbose and by no means complete, but it triggers
the basic idea.
The change in the process of progress:
Another consequence of the XMLization of HTML and it's further
consequences within the parser-engines of the browsers is the
occurance of Micro-Formats, which take advantage of their be-
haviour, not to complain about undefined tags but maintain CSS
In the moment Micro-Formats only cover presentational and
behavioural aspects. The logical step - to add semantic in any
way - is complex but nesessary, because it guides to the ability
to make semantic definition dynamic/fluid and independent of
centralized and incestious groups of interest.
Semantics, and the nesessity of the demonstration of a specific
semantic has to be defined by the user, has to be definable by
the user - over time.
The open question:
Where is the influence on decisions, definitions of the end-user?
I hope it survives 80-char wordwrap.
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