[whatwg] use of article to markup comments

Steve Faulkner faulkner.steve at gmail.com
Sat Jan 26 02:56:10 PST 2013

Adrian Testa-Avila wrote:

> On 01/25/2013 03:44 AM, Steve Faulkner wrote:
> > Over on the HTML WG list [1] we have been discussing the use of the
> > article
> > element to mark up comments.
> >
> > I have sketched out a few alternative possibilities to the current
> > recommendation in the spec of using the article element as it has been
> > indicated by users who consume the semantics that its use is suboptimal.
> >
> > I am bringing this over here as well as one of the suggestions I have [2]
> > made may include implementation changes
> >
> >
> >
> > [1]
> > http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2013Jan/thread.html#msg109
> >
> > [2] http://www.html5accessibility.com/tests/comments.html
> >
> >
> I would be concerned that recommending the use of <ul> would simply
> confuse matters further, and lead to messier, unnecessarily verbose
> markup. A clean list of comments is fine, but most comments end up
> tree-structured, not lists. Tree-<ul>s are quite verbose compared to
> simply nesting <article>s.

Lists are appropriate for indicating nested tree structures. The use
of lists to markup comments is a common mark up pattern used in
blogging software such as wordpress. The code verbosity is not
dissimilar to  the use of article, less so even option end </li> tags
are omitted. Besides comments are generated code not hand authored so
I don't see a problem with code verbosity

The useful information that is conveyed to users who actually consume
and benefit from it is provided by using lists , but not by using

So I wonder why HTML should promote the use of a less useful markup
pattern over a useful mark up pattern, what are the advantages  (real
or imagined)  to anyone?

> (It makes some sense, I suppose, to think of comments as a "list", but
> *unordered*? If you're going to group them at all, wouldn't the order
> be important? Bruce Lawson (
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2013Jan/0111.html)'s
> observation that comments are "heavily dependent on context" would seem
> to support the idea that it *is* important, especially since some
> comments are responses to others.)

agreed it would be better to use order lists.

> Robin Berjorn (
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2013Jan/0115.html) made
> a suggestion to wrap comment <article> elements inside a <details>
> element, which seems like a good approach, both in terms of semantics
> and practical result.

Use of details/summary is problematic for a number of reasons, current
lack of support, its also not a common pattern for comments, It does
not provide the useful information that use of lists do.

> *However*, I don't see anything wrong or confusing about nested
> <article>s. I think it makes perfect sense. Someone (can't find it
> now) wrote that the goal of AT applications is to "read the contents of
> the main article, without comments or other distractions"

Yes HTML now has a <main> element for indicating the main content area
in a document.

 - the fact
> that a "comment" <article> is nested inside another automatically
> implies that it is *supportive*, and not an integral part of the main
> article itself (it can be excluded without negative impact).

I suppose you don't see anything wrong with the use of article for
comments, as you don't actually consume the semantics and experience
the verbosity or require the sort of information not conveyed in its
use, there people who do who hav indicated its use is suboptimal.

 It is not at all clear when it makes sense to expose the role or
states or properties of arbitrary elements to convey set size,
hierarchical information or useful semantics and descriptions to end
Use of list markup removes the uncertainty and provides the useful
information already.


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