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

Pentasis pentasis at lavabit.com
Mon Nov 17 07:41:32 PST 2008

>> 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.
> Smylers

You cannot make a 100% comparison between printed and web-published styling 
and semantics. Apart from the "obvious" visual difference, we are talking 
about the ability here to convey semantics other than just visual. For 
example to aid machine-readability but far more importantly, Assistive 
If markup in web-publishing was meant to be just for visual feedback, we 
would only need 1 block and one inline element as we can do anything with 
just classes and CSS in that respect. In that case you would be right, as 
indeed a book, newspaper or magazine can be read just fine without using 
markup-elements. And so can webpages. But this is not the main reason behind 
"the semantic web".


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