[whatwg] Proposal: Change HTML spec to allow any arbitrary value for the <meta> "name" attribute

Michael[tm] Smith mike at w3.org
Mon Jun 3 21:42:23 PDT 2013

Feel free to ignore this proposal is you don't care much about document-
conformance requirements and validator/conformance-checker stuff. On the
other hand if you care about it and have some feedback to add, please do
weigh in if you have any feedback to add.

I also filed a bug for this, so feel free to respond there instead if you
prefer -


The context of the proposal is the following language in the HTML spec:

  "Conformance checkers must use the information given on the WHATWG Wiki
  MetaExtensions page to establish if a value is allowed or not: values
  defined in this specification or marked as "proposed" or "ratified" must
  be accepted, whereas values marked as "discontinued" or not listed in
  either this specification or on the aforementioned page must be rejected
  as invalid."


I propose we remove that language from the spec; specifically:

  1. Change the spec to allow the <meta> "name" attribute to have any
  arbitrary value that a Web author would like to use.

  2. Remove any spec requirement on conformance checkers to check meta at name

  3. Mark the WHATWG Wiki MetaExtensions page as obsolete (or whatever), as
  it will no longer be useful/needed if the spec is changed to allow
  arbitrary meta at name values.

Speaking from my perspective as a contributor to development of a
conformance checker: In practice, we receive a lot of comments and bug
reports from confused/frustrated users who are trying to use values for
meta at name that are not registered. And as far as the strategy of trying to
use the spec and Wiki page as a means to educate them about trying to
taking the time to register meta at name values and only use registered values
and standard values (those listed in the spec), well, that strategy is not
working well. They just want the validator to shut up.

I don't think much real harm would be caused in practice if we dropped the
requirement to only use standard/registered values and instead went back to
allowing documents to contain arbitrary meta at name values.

And again speaking specifically from my perspective a contributor to
development of a conformance checker, I think in practice more user time is
wasted by the existence of the current spec prohibition on unregistered/
non-standard meta at name values than would be wasted by allowing arbitrary


Michael[tm] Smith http://people.w3.org/mike

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