[whatwg] Deprecating <small> , <b> ?

Smylers Smylers at stripey.com
Mon Nov 17 06:26:22 PST 2008

Pentasis writes:

> 2) When using <small> on different text-nodes throughout the document,
> one would expect all these text-nodes to be semantically the same. But
> they are not (unless all of them are copyright notices).

In printed material users are typically given no out-of-band information
about the semantics of the typesetting.  However, smaller things are
less noticeable, and it's generally accepted that the author of the
document wishes the reader to pay less attention to them than more
prominent things.

That works fine with <small>.  User-agents which can't literally render
smaller fonts can choose alternative mechanisms for denoting lower
importance to users.

There's no chance of doing this with <span class="legalese"> or similar,
since user-agents are unaware of the semantic they should be conveying.

> 3) <small> is a styling element, it has zero semantic meaning, so it does 
> not belong inside HTML.

Denoting particular text as being of lessor importance is quite
different from choosing the overall base font size (or indeed typeface)
for the page, or the colour of links or headings -- that's merely
expressing a preference for how graphical user-agents should render
particular semantics, but the semantics themselves are conveyed to _all_
user-agents (<a>, <h3>, etc).

> 4) <b> Siemens</b> also does not tell me anything about the semantics.
> Is it used as a name, a brand a foreign word ? etc. I cannot get that
> information from looking at the <b> element.

Indeed you can't.  And nor can you if you were reading printed text with
some words in bold.  However, you would appreciate that the author had
wished for some particular words to stand out from the surrounding text.
Perhaps you then notice it's being done for all brand names?  Or that
the emboldened words spell out a secret message?

However, you can only notice this if the words have been distinguished
in some way.  With <b>, all user-agents can choose to convey to users
that those words are special.


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