[whatwg] The blockquote element spec vs common quoting practices

Nils Dagsson Moskopp nils at dieweltistgarnichtso.net
Sat Feb 11 22:36:32 PST 2012

"Jukka K. Korpela" <jkorpela at cs.tut.fi> schrieb am Sun, 12 Feb 2012
07:46:07 +0200:

> The <blockquote> has been, and will be, rather pointless without
> markup for “credits” (indication of author and source, which are
> normally required by law).

Why do you hate the cite attribute?

> […]

> 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.

And I don't think I have ever had a need for providing credits that
went beyond having a URI in the cite attribute and a corresponding
hyperlink in the surrounding prose.

> […]

> 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.

May I conjecture that lawyers and judges function almost entirely
unlike markup validators? Also, “normal” according to what rulebook?

> 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.

That would needlessly complicate parsing the contents of a blockquote
element quite a bit. Conceding that there is quite some content there
that is marked up in this (incorrect) way … why would it not be
“obvious” ro have a “for” attribute for the cite 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.

<https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1866#section-5.5.4> reads different. It
even suggests an alternative presentation style for quotations we are
currently using (prefixing with brackets instead of intendation).

> 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.

Riveting tale, chap. Can you provide proof? Anecdotally, I could tell
you exactly one site (a forum) that uses blockquote for intendation and
dozens (mostly blogs and wikis) who use it for quotation.

> 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.

How do you propose to treat legacy content?

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

An alternative might lie in using some kind of framework … for
description … of resources! Are you reasonably sure that Dublin Core or
similar vocabularies can not help you with this use case?

Nils Dagsson Moskopp // erlehmann

More information about the whatwg mailing list