[whatwg] Should <address> be more general-purpose?

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com
Tue Feb 27 10:35:50 PST 2007

Simon Pieters wrote:

> Do UAs need to know the scope of the <address>? What could they do  
> with this information? (If it is important, then we could use a class name  
> or a new attribute for this IMHO.)

Using <address> in this way has been difficult since it's hard for
agents to infer document structure from current tag soup (I'm currently
grappling with the mess in my Hypertextuality extension where I'm trying
to find the relevant permalink for articles and posts). With it's
heading parsing rules and <article> element, (X)HTML5 should at least
make this easier for documents explicitly authored to its specification.

That there should be a way of expressing the scope of contact
information is more important than the more technical question of
whether it's in an attribute or element or registered class name.
Obviously specifying an element or attribute is preferable, as then UAs
would be substantially more likely to do something with it.

> <address> has been around forever. Yet no UA has done anything useful with  
> its semantics as far as I know. That suggests to me that the use-case is  
> not a real-world one.

I tend to think the relationship between "real-world" utility and HTML
elements is mostly the other way round. Elements become widely useful
because user agents happen to make use of them (or, more often, invent
them in the first place, q.v. canvas); agent developers don't
necessarily recognize the utility of new elements in external
specifications, however. In fact, individual developers are often
entirely unaware of their very existence.

> Isn't it better to make <address> more general so that its semantics
> is more like how most authors use it so that it becomes a convenient
> styling hook for authors?


> I don't think it's a good idea to invent a new element when the use-case  
> is so weak that most authors don't bother using it and no UA have  
> implemented anything useful with it. I'd rather drop <address> altogether.

I don't follow. You seem to be asserting both that "most authors" misuse
<address> to mean any contact info /and/ that "most authors" have no use
for an element like <contactinfo> that is actually for "any contact

With regards to the practical utility of <address>, I think this is
bound up with the whole matter of the web's highly immature techniques
and technologies of citation. The age of print took a while to sought
out it's techniques and technologies too. The fact that it took such
time does not mean that there was no use-case for citation.

An <author> element might kill several of these birds with one stone.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

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