[whatwg] <CENTER>, <MENU>, <DIR>, <NL>; Re: Presentational elements in Web Applications 1.0

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Thu Nov 1 21:52:05 PDT 2007

On Oct 30, 2007, at 4:33 AM, Ian Hickson wrote:
> ...
> On Sun, 15 Jan 2006, Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
> ...
>> Authors should use presentational markup whenever there is no 
>> available semantic markup for the relevant meaning, or when they are 
>> providing authoring facilities for people who cannot be expected to 
>> think about semantic markup (e.g. people using Webmail, or people 
>> posting comments on the author's Weblog). If authors -- or 
>> specifications -- try too hard to use a semantic element, or to force 
>> other people to use it, it will be misused so much that UAs can no 
>> longer trust the element to have any particular meaning, so it will 
>> become de facto presentational.
> True... but it's not clear if elements like <font> and <center> are the
> best way of addressing this.

Right, because there's no semantic element that their absence tempts 
people to use instead. (Whereas omitting <b> and <i> would tempt people 
to use <em> for italics and <strong> for bold instead.)

> ...
>> <i>
>>     This has always been presentational, and will continue to be so in
>>     the majority of HTML 5 documents. Most authors will assume it has
>>     the same purpose as it did in previous versions of HTML; and many
>>     of the authors who actually read that part of the spec will giggle
>>     at the "instance of a term" frippery and disregard it.
> This has changed since you commented on it, I believe. Now it's still
> "presentational", but it is at least media-independent, being defined 
> in a way that is still usable in speech contexts.

Yes, the current definition makes much more sense, though it buries the 
point a bit. I think it would be more obvious to begin something like 
"The i element represents a span of text where the typical 
typographical presentation is italics, and no other element is more 
appropriate. (For example, citations should instead use the cite 

> ...
> (I strongly feel that there is a difference between <div> used for
> grouping thematically related blocks, and <p> used for separating
> thematically related inline content, e.g. parts of a form.
> ...

Launchpad.net presents (for people registered) many forms where a text 
field has not just a label, but also an explanatory caption of one or 
two (or in one case five) sentences. These captions are unambiguously 
paragraphs <p>, inside form rows <div>, inside forms <form>. If we 
wanted to "separat[e] thematically related ... parts of a form" we 
wouldn't use <p>; we'd use <fieldset>, because that's *exactly* what 
<fieldset> is for.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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