[whatwg] New attributes would degrade better than new elements

Ashley Sheridan ash at ashleysheridan.co.uk
Sat Oct 29 07:19:37 PDT 2011

On Sat, 2011-10-29 at 16:38 +0300, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:

> 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?

I stand corrected, Google doesn't yet do this. 

> > - - 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.

It's not prejudice, it's observation. With the exception of the <a> tag
that I mentioned and the <input> tag that Boris Zbarsky mentioned, HTML
tags are used to describe the content they contain and not attributes of
a generic tag.

>  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.

In the same way that semantic tags were added in HTML4 instead of
"backwards compatible" attributes the HTML5 specs are adding new tags.
You keep mentioning that we should use <div> tags for everything that
the new HTML5 tags are being used for now, but you seem to forget that
this is just the same situation as we had years ago when HTML4 was
announced as a spec. Why was it OK to introduce new tags then but not


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