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

Robert Brodrecht whatwg at robertdot.org
Mon Mar 12 00:05:54 PDT 2007

On Mar 11, 2007, at 4:39 AM, Mihai Sucan wrote:

> It's false to assume the UA developers can happily say "now we'll  
> parse HTML5, lets use our new HTML5 parser". No, this won't happen.  
> Here's why: the UA cannot be sure that the document is *really*  
> HTML 5.

Browsers don't read DTDs.  They wouldn't read the link  
rel="recommedation" src="url-to-html-document".  It would exist to  
commit the author of the document to a certain recommendation, and,  
in the future, let other authors know what the author was working  
with.  Like DTDs but for humans instead of programs.  The browsers  
would continue to do whatever they feel like they need to do to  
render the content.

> So, I ask you: what use is then a DTD, a version attribute, or any  
> indication that the document is written with HTML5 in mind? It's  
> practically useless. The UAs will completely ignore it, if it would  
> exist (at least for the moment - the future is still subject to  
> change :) ).

Web standards are about committing to ideals.  It would serve the  
purpose of committing the author to a certain ideal (e.g. WHATWG's  
HTML 5 standards) and, in the future, let other authors know what the  
author was intending to do.  I don't see this as differing much from  
link rel="author" and link rel="license". [1]  It'd be an optional  
tag for those of us who want to let people know exactly what we were  
trying to do with the document.

> I think it's too early to talk about W3C HTML5 versus WHATWG HTML5.  
> We shall wait and see.

Some people don't save money in the event that they get laid off from  
their job.  All I'm saying is that a contingency plan won't hurt  
anything.  We have a competing standard now.  The fact that the  
WHATWG exists suggest that we could have more competing standards.   
Before, it was OK to act as though the WHAT HTML 5 was the only HTML  
5 because it was the only HTML 5.  By the time W3C finishes their  
recommendation, there will be two HTML 5s. I will be very surprised  
if W3C and WHAT create two completely compatible recommendations.   
I'm worried that the new browser wars to be recommendation wars...    
Things are suddenly different now than they were before.  Talking  
about it now before it is a problem sure beats having to hack around  
it after it is a problem (see the original quirksmode switch and the  
fact that IE team now wants another quirksmode switch).

> I don't remember them *asking* a WG for such solutions. This is  
> only a proposal made by the initial author of the thread.

Microsoft didn't ask a standards group for a solution.  They asked  
developers for another standards mode opt-in. [2]  Presumably, the  
opt-in would be something in one of the new recommendations that is  
different from HTML 4.  That would fall on WHAT WG and W3C WG.  The  
header I suggested would put it in the hands of IE instead of in the  
hands of a specification.  Then it isn't about the specification.   
It's about some proprietary thing Microsoft needs for their browser  
to work better for us.  All they want is some way to tell their  
browser to use super-standards mode.  There really is no reason to  
put this switch in HTML 5.  The header could be called "X-IE-SUPER- 
STANDARDS-MODE: On;" to solve the problem.  My example was written  
how it was before ("X-STANDARDS-MODE: HTML5") to give Microsoft a  
little more leeway if they needed yet another switch in the future  
(as some on this list feel they may).  It really doesn't matter what  
the header is.  What matters is that it means WHAT doesn't need to  
add some proprietary thing to their recommendation to fix IE's problems.

[1] http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#linkTypes
[2] http://video.yahoo.com/video/play? 
vid=cccd4aa02a3993ab06e56af731346f78.2006940 or http:// 
browserwars-20070228.m4v (18:49 is where Chris Wilson actually says  
the line in question; the monologue that leads to the question starts  
around 15:00 )
Robert <http://robertdot.org>

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