[whatwg] New attributes would degrade better than new elements

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Fri Jan 27 11:33:07 PST 2012

On Wed, 26 Oct 2011, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
> New elements like <nav> and <footer> have the problem that some existing 
> user agents don't recognize them, even for the purposes of styling.

This is only a transient problem for a few years, and a minor one at that 
-- you can always add CSS to make them work in CSS-capable browsers, and 
it doesn't matter so much if they do nohting in non-CSS browsers.

> So if you want to use <nav>, then - unless you're using it for purely 
> semantic reasons with no idea of styling - you need to use some special 
> trick to make old browsers recognize it or assign your styles to some 
> logically redundant <div> markup that you use in addition to <nav>.

Old IEs need a special trick. Other browsers really don't, unless you 
consider setting the element's 'display' property a "trick".

> Therefore, it would be much simpler, for compatibility with existing 
> user agents, to use just <div type=nav> and <div type=footer>.

I think the ugliness of that solution far outweighs any temporary 
transition issue.

> I understand that this should have been suggested years ago. But I 
> didn't think of the issue, and it seems that neither did anyone else, 
> aloud.

Actually this topic was discussed in depth.

> Nobody needs new elements with no required functionality, really. The idea of
> more compact markup is pointless.

This view is not shared by all. Personally, for example, I find the 
terseness of different element names to be of much help in writing more 
maintainable documents.

On Thu, 27 Oct 2011, Kang-Hao (Kenny) Lu wrote:
> What else use cases do they serve? (This is a serious question since I 
> truly don't know.)

Specific elements have specific purposes, e.g. <nav> allows ATs to jump to 
or past site navigation blocks, and <section> allows table of contents 
outlines to be created (as do h1-h6, but section allows you to do it 
without having to renumber all your headings when moving stuff around).

But in general, the main purpose is easier authoring.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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