[whatwg] Subject: Re: many messages regarding image captions

David Walbert dwalbert at learnnc.org
Tue Nov 28 06:34:31 PST 2006

On Nov 27, 2006, at 10:39 PM, Michel Fortin wrote:
To me, a figure contains illustrative content attached to a document.  
It may be an image, a code sample, or a snippet of another document  
used as an example. I think it's important we do not try to narrow  
too much what can and what cannot be contained in a figure; that's  
the job of the author do decide.

On Nov 28, 2006, at 1:13 AM, fantasai wrote:
Some examples of this kind of usage, albeit without the captions:

In principle, I see your point, but I don't see that such broadly  
defined figures would have widespread practical value. A "figure" in  
print publishing traditionally referred to anything that couldn't be  
normally typeset, but in practice that usually referred to images,  
charts/graphs ( which in HTML would be inserted as images also), and  
tables (which in HTML have their own structure and markup). A  
"figure" in HTML seems to me to serve the same purpose: to denote and  
describe illustrative content that cannot itself be marked up with HTML.

The example from mozilla.org doesn't require any special container  
element, because it needs no caption. The set-aside text is an  
example of what's being discussed in the surrounding text, and the  
heading "example" serves perfectly well to explain that. Once we say  
that plain text can be a "figure," I'm not sure what meaning "figure"  
really has any longer; it could be almost anything. And if it could  
be almost any piece of text that the author feels is an aside, it  
will have no semantic consistency, and will then be functionally no  
different from <div>.

Additionally, one of the main reasons to include an element for image  
captioning is machine-based indexing, and if the figure is plain text  
in the page, that isn't a problem.

I think that this broad notion of a "figure" is quite clever but  
frankly too clever for the typical person using HTML. It requires a  
level of editorial decision-making that I fear will confuse more  
authors than it helps, and confused authors make a confusing web.

David Walbert
LEARN NC, UNC-Chapel Hill
dwalbert at learnnc.org
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