[whatwg] Using the HTML5 DOCTYPE as a new quirksmode switch

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Sun Mar 11 19:57:07 PDT 2007

On Sun, 11 Mar 2007, Matthew Ratzloff wrote:
> On Sun, March 11, 2007 3:20 pm, Anne van Kesteren wrote:
> >
> > There needs to be versioning? The web has done great so far without 
> > it... I'm not sure I really see the need.
> The Web has done great so far without it?  When "strict" mode was 
> introduced, all existing websites didn't suddenly start rendering under 
> it.  It was opt-in.  Versioning is just a formalized way of opting into 
> a certain rendering method.

Strict mode isn't versioning, per se; it's a toggle between two modes 
which was basically required to get around the problem of the standards 
not lining up with reality and the browsers being unable to both comply to 
standards and render legacy content.

HTML5 doesn't need such a rendering mode flag because it doesn't introduce 
incompatibilities (by design).

As a rule, versioning is a very bad design strategy. Implementors are 
forced to support every version that is used by content. If versions are 
different from each other, then that basically means a new implementation 
per version. If there are five versions, then browser vendors end up 
having to support five browsers instead of one. Given how much difficulty 
browser vendors have supporting just the one browser (or one-and-a-bit, 
with quirks mode), I would hate to force them to support, over the years, 
dozens of different versions.

> It would be great if rendering always stayed the same, browser makers 
> always got it right the first time, and things were only added to the 
> specification.  But as I mentioned previously, without versioning of 
> some sort, rendering either becomes a moving target or browser makers 
> become slaves to backwards compatibility.  Or, more likely, some 
> combination of both.

The basic design principles of the WHATWG:


...assumes that backwards compatibility will be supported above all else. 
(It's the first thing listed, even.)

I don't see what you describe as a problem, but as a strength.

Sure, it's less "pure", but it is far more pragmatic, and far more likely 
to actually work and remain maintainable on the long term.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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