[whatwg] Allow trailing slash in always-empty HTML5 elements?

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Wed Nov 29 14:18:44 PST 2006

Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Wed, 29 Nov 2006, Leons Petrazickis wrote:
>> This rigmarole is going to repeat on every site that has converted to 
>> XHTML sent as text/html. People are emotionally invested in the idea of 
>> trailing slashes. Websites have complex codebases, and going through 
>> them removing trailing slashes on singleton elements would be very hard.
> If people want to make HTML5 syntactically compatible with XHTML1, such 
> that XHTML1 documents don't cause syntax errors in HTML5, we'll have to do 
> a whole lot more than just allowing trailing /s. I don't really see why 
> that would be a goal, though. Going further, if we want to make documents 
> in general compliant with HTML5, then we've got our work cut out for us -- 
> at least 78% of documents are syntactically incorrect today (not counting 
> things like trailing /s in attributes, or missing DOCTYPEs -- if you 
> include those, the number is more like 93%).

I tentatively support the idea that trailing slashes on "singleton"[1] 
elements should not be a parse error. I don't think it has any actual 
technical merit but I think it will be helpful in getting developer 
mindshare; a lot of people have drunk the "Zeldman Koolaid" and have the 
ideas of XHTML, clean markup, CSS, and conformance to standards in 
general all mushed together in their brain[2]. For these people (who I 
think represent the upper quartile of web developers in terms of 
commitment to good markup) the trailing slash in empty elements is the 
syntax of a new generation - it is a symbol that represents everything 
that has changed in web design since 1996 - as intrinsically useless as 
a fashionable designer label but just as seductive.

[1] I find that name quite confusing as it suggests there should only be 
one in the entire document.

[2] c.f. the "code is poetry" comment in the Wordpress bug report 
despite the fact that most here would argue HTML 4 as text/html is 
considerably more poetic than XHTML as text/html.

"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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