[whatwg] Fwd: [html5] Semantic elements and spec complexity

David Gerard dgerard at gmail.com
Wed Feb 11 13:34:50 PST 2009

(to list as well)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Gerard <dgerard at gmail.com>
Date: 2009/2/11
Subject: Re: [whatwg] [html5] Semantic elements and spec complexity
To: Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch>

2009/2/10 Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch>:
> On Thu, 11 Nov 2004, Matthew Thomas wrote:

>> 1.  Most authors Just Don't Care about semantic markup. They'll only use
>>     it if it's the easiest way of getting the visual effect or behavior
>>     they want in their own favorite browser, or if they can use it to
>>     game search engines. (That's why authors use <ul> and <li>, for
>>     example, but not <address>.)

> I don't know if the thrust of this argument is true, but I am pretty sure
> the parenthetical isn't. If authors don't use <address> I think it's
> because of a variety of reasons including its poor name, and its lack of
> particularly useful purpose.
> I think there is a wide range of authoring styles, ranging from the author
> who really hasn't any idea that there is such a thing as semantics, and
> just thinks visually, to the author who just wants to get stuff done but
> understands that there are elements for specific purposes like lists, to
> the author who has bought the semantics religion but doesn't really
> understand it, leading to all kinds of "innovative" (and wrong) uses of
> HTML's less well known elements.

This debate has come up on the Wikipedia tech lists concerning markup.

HTML was intended to be a markup language usable by humans. However,
the humans it was written for just happened to be Ph.D nuclear
physicists. Lesser humans have a propensity to write tag soup.
However, in human-writing circumstances, this is a feature rather than
a bug - if it weren't, wikitext would be perfectly-formed XML rather
than tag soup.

So the tricky one is to write a language definition that does
something meaningful with tag soup. Because "tag soup" is what human
languages are too, and they're learned in a similar fashion (try stuff
and see if it works).

Think of tag-soupness as a feature, not a bug. Shudder in horror at
what this implies.

- d.

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