[whatwg] The div element
ian at hixie.ch
Wed Jul 30 17:44:56 PDT 2008
On Thu, 28 Feb 2008, Geoff Pack wrote:
> Why does the HTML5 spec say "The div element represents nothing at all"?
> Div clearly stands for 'division', as was specified in the HTML 3.2
> spec: "DIV elements can be used to structure HTML documents as a
> hierarchy of divisions." [http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html32#div]
> So what gives - why is everyone so keen to claim that 'div' is
> meaningless? And why so keen on 'section', which is pretty much
> synonymous in this context.
<section> and <div> have very different semantics. <section> describes a
section of a document, e.g. a chapter or a scene.
<div> is a generic element used for grouping and structure when there's
nothing better to use. If we said it represented a "division", then there
would be nothing left over to represent "nothing".
For example, people want to do things like:
<div class="zoom-control"> ... </div>
<div class="dates"> ... </div>
<div class="legend"> ... </div>
<div class="chart"> ... </div>
<div class="background"> ... </div>
<div class="active-indicator"> ... </div>
<div class="scroller-control"> ... </div>
...to represent something like the stock chart widget on Google Finance.
These aren't divisions. They're nothing, just places to hang styles from
because HTML isn't good enough to natively have a stock chart control.
On Thu, 28 Feb 2008, Dave Hodder wrote:
> Personally I'd describe it more along the lines of:
> "The div element is a generic way of representing document structure,
> but offers no further semantics. Where appropriate, elements with more
> specific meanings (such as section or aside) should be used instead. Use
> of the div element may be appropriate for extended features not covered
> by this specification, for example a new type of user interface
I don't think the <div>s in the example above are "representing document
structure" in anything more than the most technical of senses.
On Thu, 28 Feb 2008 html at nczonline.net wrote:
> I'm still not clear to me how <section/> is anything more than a <div/>.
> HTML4 said: "The DIV and SPAN elements, in conjunction with the id and
> class attributes, offer a generic mechanism for adding structure to
> documents" (http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/global.html#edef-DIV).
> Isn't that the very thing that <section/> is trying to do? Provide
> structure? I don't see that it offers anything over and above what
> <div/>s do now, except for confusing developers as to which is more
> appropriate to use.
The difference is that <section> elements appear in the table of
On Fri, 29 Feb 2008, Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
> In HTML5, the <hx> hierarchy is explicitly ignored. Instead, they're
> all treated the same. The actual heading level is determined by
> <section> nesting.
(This isn't completely true, but it is true that the rank of headers only
affects headers withint the same sectioning element.)
> Question to others: I think it is somewhat unclear what exactly the
> correct semantics are for <section> when it is encountered outside of an
> <article>. Since <section> is the most generic of the sectioning tags,
> there is a definite risk of it falling into the same hole that <div> is
> in. Where exactly should <section> be used when outside of an article,
> and when should we just default to the <div>?
<article> isn't needed if there's only one article on the page, or if the
page is part of a large set of documents forming a single "article" or
On Mon, 3 Mar 2008, Geoff Pack wrote:
> After following the discussion, I¹m still not any clearer about the
> difference between sections and divs. But no matter. What I¹m bothered
> about is not which to use where, but the description in the spec. I
> think it should be changed from:
> ³The div element represents nothing at all.²
> To something like:
> "The div element represents a document division. It can (also)
> be used as a generic block-level element"
If something represents both A and not-A, then it represents nothing,
effectively, since you can't tell which meaning is being used at any one
time. Hence, the <div> element represents nothing.
> Similarly, the definition of the span element should be changed from:
> "The span element doesn't mean anything on its own..."
> "The span element represents an arbitrary span of text."
The text itself represents the arbitrary span of text. The <span> element
doesn't add anything to the meaning of the document on its own. That's
what the spec is saying.
> Strangely enough, both the <b> and <i> elements begin:
> "The .. element represents a span of text..."
Both of those sections immediately elaborate about the special
characteristics that they introduce to those spans.
Ian Hickson U+1047E )\._.,--....,'``. fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/ U+263A /, _.. \ _\ ;`._ ,.
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