[whatwg] RDFa is to structured data, like canvas is to bitmap and SVG is to vector

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Sun Jan 18 03:37:03 PST 2009

On Sun, 18 Jan 2009, Dan Brickley wrote:
> On 18/1/09 00:24, Henri Sivonen wrote:
> > 
> > No. However, most of the time, when people publish HTML, they do it to 
> > elicit browser behavior when a user loads the HTML document in a 
> > browser.
> Most users of the Web barely know what a browser is, let alone HTML. 
> They're just putting information online; perhaps into a closed site (eg. 
> facebook), perhaps into a public-facing site (eg. a blog), or perhaps 
> into 1:1, group or IM messaging (eg. webmail). [...]
> The reason for my pedantry here is not to be argumentative, but just to
> suggest that this (otherwise very natural) thinking leads us to forget about
> the other major consumers of HTML - search engine. [...]
> Aren't search engines equally important consumers of HTML? Perhaps 
> they're more simple-minded in their behaviour than a full UI browser. 
> But from the user side, there's only slightly more value in being 
> readable without being findable than vice-versa...

Speaking at least from Google's perspective, we've found that the closer 
we get to emulating a browser, the better our results get. I would say 
that even if they don't realise it, authors are by and large acting pretty 
much exactly as Henri describes, and they expect their non-browser tools, 
such as their search engines, to just Do The Right Thing.

This is reflected in the great difficulty we (the standards community) 
have had in convincing authors to use CSS. The mere idea that authors 
should mark up their text as headings and then make their headings big is 
often faced by the simple reply "But I just want my text to be big".

I'm not trying to draw any value judgements here, though. Personally I'd 
love it if authors could just mark up their content purely semantically 
and have the browsers Do The Right Thing the way that search engines have 
to now based on the few semantics (and ample presentational hints) that 
authors use. But in my experience most authors don't think that way, and 
aren't interested in thinking that way.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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