[whatwg] several messages about HTML5

Elliotte Harold elharo at metalab.unc.edu
Wed Feb 21 13:34:39 PST 2007

Ian Hickson wrote:

> The original reason I got involved in this work is that I realised that 
> the human race has written literally billions of electronic documents, but 
> without ever actually saying how they should be processed. 

That's a feature, not a bug.

> If, in a 
> thousand years, someone found a trove of HTML documents and decided they
> would right an HTML browser to view them, they couldn't do it! Even with 
> the existing HTML specs -- HTML4, SGML, DOM2 HTML, etc -- a perfect 
> implementation couldn't render the vast majority of documents as they were 
> originally intended.

Authorial intent is a myth. Documents don't have to be rendered like the 
author intended, nor should we expect them to be.  We don't read Homer 
like Homer intended, but we still read him, well more than a thousand 
years later. (For one thing Homer actually intended that people listen 
to the poems, not read them.)

This is not to say that I don't think it's useful to define a standard 
tree structure for documents. It is useful. However the benefit of this 
exercise is not in maintaining authorial intent. That's tilting at 
windmills, and will never succeed no matter what we do.

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

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