[whatwg] the cite element

Smylers Smylers at stripey.com
Sun Sep 20 05:42:34 PDT 2009

Jim Jewett writes:

> In
> http://lists.whatwg.org/pipermail/whatwg-whatwg.org/2009-September/023005.html,
> Ian quoted Erik Vorhes as writing:
> > > Put another way, if you had no prior knowledge of the current
> > > HTML5 definition of <cite> (and perhaps any other specification's
> > > definition of the element), what would seem to be logical and
> > > appropriate uses of the element?
> Ian:
> > You mean based on just the element name? I wouldn't use it without
> > reading the spec first. Most people seem to think it means
> > "italics", though, for what that's worth.
> I think that gets at the root of the problem with cite.  Most people
> don't read the spec, or even know where to find it.  cite isn't common
> enough to just copy by example, and it turns out to be ambiguous as
> the name of an element or attribute.

But why would somebody be in the situation where they encounter <cite>,
want to use it, but aren't sure where?

Surely that's backwards?  Why would authors be trying to use elements
for the sake of them?

I'd expect the more usual sequence to be an author typing some text,
blissfully unaware of <cite>, then coming to the title of a book and
wanting it to be styled differently so as to convey that to users, and
looking for the element to use.

I don't think anybody's claiming that "cite" is a great name.  But it's
what we have.

> Do you wrap the actual excerpt (the precise thing you're citing), or
> the name of the source?

The name of the work is the part that readers typically have
distinguished to them.

> If you wrap the name/title of the source, is there a way to show the
> scope of what you're attributing?

Not in HTML5 (but possibly with a microformat specifically for that).
In what way do you envisage this being conveyed to or of use to users?

> My own interpretation of (a fraction of)
> http://philip.html5.org/data/cite.txt did not support narrowing the
> definition only to titles.

But in the cases where <cite> is being used for things other than titles
of works, what does it achieve?  How do users benefit?

If authors are spending time on using an element which has no effect on
users (and Hixie's pointed out that in many cases where <cite> is used
other than for titles of works authors use CSS to remove the default
italics, to ensure that users don't actually have the presence of the
<cite> conveyed to them) then there's no reason for HTML5 to continue to
support it.

Rather it does authors a favour; they'll no longer have to spend time
doing something of no benefit.

> These do seem useful; if you wanted more information, it might well be
> "How do I contact this photographer or that model to get something
> similar?"

How does the use of <cite> make that any easier for users than if, say,
<span> (or <i> or <div> or whatever) had been used instead?


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