[whatwg] New attributes would degrade better than new elements

Jukka K. Korpela jkorpela at cs.tut.fi
Sat Oct 29 06:38:04 PDT 2011

27.10.2011 3:11, Ashley Sheridan wrote:

> Try telling me
> Google isn't aware of HTML5 in web pages and I'll laugh.

OK, I'll try: Google does not care about new HTML5 elements. Do you feel 
amused now?

Can you please now do me, and others, a favor and give some evidence of 
actual Google behavior in this respect? If it's something that we need 
to be aware of, it should be observable from outside Google, i.e. when 
using Google, not just in their internal code that is not public. So 
which effects can we observe?

(This would be interesting in its own account, even though it does not 
prove that new _elements_ were needed for that. But it would give some 
perspective regarding the eagerness to add and promote new elements.)

> - - you shouldn't use attributes to determine the meaning of the
> content.

That sounds like a prejudice based on the introduction of many 
presentational attributes in HTML 3.2 and their preservation in later 
versions. It does not in any way mean that attributes as such are 
presentational and not semantic.

HTML5 tries hard to distinguish between <table> indicating tabular data 
and <table> being used merely as layout tool - and the distinction is 
largely based on the use of attributes in the <table> element and its 
descendants. It is certainly wise to keep <table> as dual (tabular data 
vs. layout) for compatibility, instead of introducing new elements to 
distinguish them - no matter how logical or semantic such an idea might 
sound. Using attributes in <div> to indicate navigational areas, 
articles, etc., would similarly be useful for compatibility and would be 
much clearer and more logical, as the meaning would be uniquely defined 
by a single attribute - not by some rather messy rules involving several 
elements and attributes.

Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/

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