[whatwg] Joe Clark's Criticisms of the WHATWG and HTML 5

Nicholas Shanks contact at nickshanks.com
Fri Mar 23 05:40:47 PDT 2007

On 23 Mar 2007, at 02:27, Robert Brodrecht wrote:

> Just because "most ... doesn't bother" doesn't mean it ought to be  
> removed.
> So let's not ignore elements because "no one uses them."
> Ignore them because they are useless.

I was thinking more along the lines of:

1) We start with a set containing all potential authors, human and  
robotic, past present and future.
2) We remove from that set the people and programs who don't care  
about or are not willing to learn correct methods of authorship,  
these people should have no say.
3) We then take a poll of every possible string value for new  
elements, and sort the result as a priority list, amalgamating words  
that mean the same thing.
4) We decide how many elements HTML should have (i.e. how complicated  
it should be/how hard for new people to learn), and cut the list at  
this number.
5) We then use this as the new HTML.

That way I'm sure there would be 100 million votes for <copyright>  
and perhaps 250,000 votes for <var>, <dfn>, <kbd> etc.

Mostly unused, not even deprecated, these elements bloat the spec,  
confuse lay authors (i.e. those not of a computer science background)  
and I feel would be better represented by a custom XML vocabulary.

> <code> is not useless....
> And, frankly, you are wrong.  Lots of places I go markup code with  
> <code>....

You completely misunderstood. I was arguing against the need for  
<var>, <samp> et al.
I.E. Markup *within* code/computer terminal representation, not  
against <code> itself.
I welcome <code> to mark up blocks of code, but I don't think HTML  
should go further than that, if you want to mark up computer code  
that badly, use XHTML + some CodeML equivalent to MathML.
I also believe it should be preformatted as well as monospace (white- 
space: pre; font-family: monospace;) by default.

Indeed, if we were starting again I would probably make <code> block- 
level. Then again it's easier to write <div><code> (make a code  
block) than <code style="display:inline;"> (make a code run) And  
works with non-CSS capable UAs/devices.
I think the sample given for <code> in the spec should be wrapped in  
a <div> given that sample's inherent block-like nature. There could  
also be an example of it where just one word in a paragraph was  
marked up.

But how can you justify the presence of <kbd> when so few people  
write content where keyboard input has to be represented? I've never  
met anyone who's hobby is writing computer software manuals in HTML.  
By contrast there are millions upon millions of people who watch  
television and discuss it on the internet. Why isn't <tv-show> an  

One only has to look at the examples given in the HTML5 spec to see  
how esoteric <samp> is:

> <code> isn't powerful enough as it is, in my opinion.

I strongly agree. It's domain is also not clear enough either. Does  
morse code count? What about encoded strings?  <code  
type="rot13">uryyb eboreg</code>
People who aren't programmers have a different understanding of the  
meaning of the word than we do. Confusing elements leads to both  
decreased and incorrect usage.

>> I fear that in 100 years we'll be downloading free shampoo to our  
>> molecular synthesizers that will come wrapped in HTML <samp> tags.
> Well, only if the shampoo sample is output from a computer  
> program.  We do have to care about the semantics...

No, you missed the point again. <samp> is short for sample. Misguided  
hair care people of the future will think their product sample counts  
as a sample and use it for that. Quite frankly most real-world/normal  
people (e.g. your greengrocer) don't care whether something is  
computer output or not, but they could very well benefit from  
<product> labelling up SKUs on their supplier's website, for example.  
We can't add elements willy-nilly without creating bloat though, and  
the dead wood has to be cropped to keep the tree healthy.

> Joe Clarke isn't calling for the removal of computer science elements.

I am. Or at least their deprecation, a notice that they will be  
removed in future version of HTML.

- Nicholas.
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