[whatwg] Some discrepencies and example remarks

Jeremy Keith jeremy at adactio.com
Sun Oct 11 04:30:55 PDT 2009

Evert wrote:
> I am still having problems accepting the differences between  
> <section> and <article> though. I understand when to use one over  
> the other, but what was the background for choosing two elements  
> instead of one? What is the drawback of defining just one in the  
> spec (either <section> or <article>) and giving that one all the use  
> cases and abilities of the two? I don't see how that would affect  
> anything (not even AT).

An excellent question. And I think it's very telling that this overlap  
is confusing for a working web developer looking at the spec with a  
fresh perspective.

<section> and <article> used to be somewhat different. <article> used  
to take optional @cite and @pubdate attributes.

Now <section> and <article> are pretty much identical (the only  
content model difference being that <article> may contain a <time>  
element with an optional @pubdate attribute). The only semantic  
difference between the two elements is an adjective: "standalone" (or  
"independent"), which applies to <article> but not to  
<section> ...even though <section>, by definition, is a collection of  
related content.

The only justification I've heard for the continued existence of two  
new elements when just one will do, is that it will help authors of  
blogs from adding class="post" to their entries. That is an extremely  
flimsy justification, one that could be used to justify adding  
hundreds of new elements to HTML5 (e.g. <recipe>, <comment>, <story>,  

I'm most puzzled by the cognitive dissonance between the refusal to  
drop a redundant new element like <article>, and the refusal at all  
costs to add new elements where they would be genuinely useful (such  
as a labelling element for <figure> and <details>).

Jeremy Keith

a d a c t i o


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