[whatwg] A plea to Hixie to adopt <main>

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Tue Nov 27 21:26:00 PST 2012

On Wed, 28 Nov 2012, Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 10:35 AM, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:
> > On Wed, 28 Nov 2012, Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> > > >
> > > > But we already have this. The main content is whatever content 
> > > > isn't marked up as not being main content (anything not marked up 
> > > > with <header>, <aside>, <nav>, etc).
> > >
> > > I tried to validate that claim. It's not really possible with 
> > > today's Web pages, since they haven't moved to making use of these 
> > > elements, but I made some educated guesses as to where they would be 
> > > used sensibly on a normal Web page. I have applied this to Google 
> > > search results, Facebook user pages, YouTube video pages, and 
> > > Wikipedia articles as examples of some of the most used content on 
> > > the Web. You can see my results at
> >
> > http://blog.gingertech.net/2012/11/28/the-use-cases-for-a-main-element-in-html/ 
> >
> > I think you're massively over-complicating what needs to be authored 
> > here.
> >
> > For example, with a Google search, just mark up everything up to the 
> > id="main" in a <header>, mark up the id="top_nav" as a <nav>, and mark 
> > up the id="foot" in a <footer>, and what's left is the main content. 
> > (Note that this does _not_ map to what the authors would have marked 
> > up using <main>, as determined by looking at what they marked up with 
> > id="main" -- that contains the navigation.)
> Agreed. But what the authors have marked up as @id=main is not relevant 
> for this discussion -

Yes, it is, because by and large that's exactly the element that people 
are going to use <main> for.

Most people aren't going to use <main> for accessibility reasons. That's 
not how most authors think. They'll use it for styling. We have to design 
the language with that in mind. That's why we have things like <header> 
and <nav> and <aside> _instead_ of something like <main>.

> The feedback that I get from blind users is: "the main content is the 
> video and I can't find it".

Then browsers should let blind users have the ability to jump to video 
elements. No need for the page to be marked up at all being <video>.

(But not that there's no video on the youtube.com home page, unless you 
mean the ad.)

> When authored correctly or corrected after feedback from blind users, it
> will work -

Exactly. In other words, it won't work, because it's unlikely to be 
authored correctly, and feedback from blind users by and large has no 
effect on sites.

There's also the assumption that what you want is just to jump to a part 
of the page, rather than read the page from top to bottom, just skipping 
the parts of the page that aren't hugely interesting, like navigation.
I actually think that's the better UI here. That is, rather than:

   "DALLAS - On a rainy night in early Summer, a tiny kitten with..."


   "Pegasus News. (skipping navigation, press space to hear skipped 
   sections.) Help Charlie the kitten find a new home. (skipping 
   navigation.) DALLAS - On a rainy night in early Summer, a tiny
   kitten with..."

Even in the best-case scenario, <main> gets you the worse UI above, 
whereas using <nav> and <aside> and so forth can get you the second.


All of this has already been discussed on this mailing list, so this is 
not new information. I would please refer you to the earlier messages on 
this topic. In general, unless there is substantial new information, 
please don't keep posting on a thread in this mailing list -- the list is 
high-traffic enough without us covering old ground (which is unlikely to 
result in a different outcome if nothing has changed).

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

More information about the whatwg mailing list