[whatwg] The blockquote element spec vs common quoting practices

Jukka K. Korpela jkorpela at cs.tut.fi
Sat Feb 11 21:46:07 PST 2012

2012-02-12 2:13, Ian Hickson wrote:

> That's not to say that one day we won't provide an explicit way to mark up
> attribution for <blockquote>s in markup, just that the desired
> presentation isn't a relevant concern in doing so

The relationship between a quotation and the indication of source is not 
presentational, and more than being a quotation is presentational. 
Stylistic variations in displaying a quotation or the relationship are 

The <blockquote> has been, and will be, rather pointless without markup 
for “credits” (indication of author and source, which are normally 
required by law). It has been, and will be, either ignored by authors or 
used to mean “indent” in a comfortable way, though accidentally 
indentation may be used for quotations.

Even formally, a <blockquote> element has been, and remains to be, at 
most semi-semantic. The definition “block quotation” left it open what 
distinguishes it from other quotations, except in rendering. “A section 
quoted from another source” surely looks like more semantic and 
structural, but if taken seriously, it would kill <blockquote>.

Seldom does an author wish to quote an entire section. It is not even 
legal to quote more than is required to fulfill the acceptable purpose 
of quoting. I don’t think I have ever quoted anything that could 
sensibly be called a section. None of the examples currently presented 
comes even close

Wrapping <blockquote> inside <figure> just to be able to present 
“credits” as <figcaption> is highly artificial. It is also clumsy, 
especially considering that it would have to be the *normal* way of 
presenting a block quotation to satisfy legal requirements.

If we start from the semantic and logical concept of a quotation, then 
it should be obvious that the element should have a subelement for 
providing source information (“credits”), normally at the end of the 
element. The reason why this has not been so from the beginning is that 
<blockquote> was really designed for indentation, though it was _named_ 
after one use for indentation that the designers had in their mind. And 
that’s how it has been used.

Since in current usage, <blockquote> means just “indent” more often than 
not, browsers and search engines should not and will not imply any 
specific semantics for it. Thus it will be pointless to use it.

So leave <blockquote> as legacy markup and recommend it to be used, in 
new documents, only for indentation in rare situations where an author 
much prefers indentation even in the absence of CSS.

And design markup for quotations so that suits practical needs and legal 
requirements. For this, introduce <quotation> with <src> as a subelement


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