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Re: A Concrete Example for the HTML Versioning Debate

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2007 05:15:31 +0000 (UTC)
To: Jeff Schiller <codedread@gmail.com>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0704180458140.17772@dhalsim.dreamhost.com>

On Tue, 17 Apr 2007, Jeff Schiller wrote:
> 
> I don't think this is what you intended by this - but it sounds like 
> it's ok to break content relying on Firefox and Opera behavior but not 
> to break content relying on IE behavior.

When we have to chose between the two (which is extremely rare, given how 
little content _depends_ on Firefox or Opera), yes, we should stick to 
compatibility with the browser used by the most people, namely IE.


> But I guess I was trying to illustrate that such situations do exist and 
> how will you know you've researched and captured them all?

Browser vendors tend to be quite vocal when they find issues like this. So 
by following their screams we can usually track most of them down.


> And even if you can be reasonably confident - what is the harm in 
> introducing a "5" into the DOCTYPE somewhere?

It encourages people to think of HTML as a versioned specification, and 
encourages and gives the appearance of condoning exactly what Microsoft is 
intending to do.

It increases the size of the boilerplate, when we should be limiting it 
to the bare minimum.

It encourages conformance checkers to check against the declarad version 
instead of checking against the most up to date version.

In any case, arguing that we should add something because it doesn't cause 
harm is not a valid line of argument. We should add something because it 
has strong *benefits*. Version syntax doesn't, insofar as I can tell.


> If HTML6 actually ends up being perfectly backwards compatible with 
> HTML5, then I don't see a harm in putting a "6" in the DOCTYPE when it 
> gets released - if things are truly backwards compatible, then it just 
> means that anything 5 or higher in the DOCTYPE means "the one true and 
> pure standards mode for all browsers", but it does give a hint to web 
> authors/maintainers that this content might have some features that were 
> introduced in HTML6.

No it doesn't. Look at content today. The DOCTYPEs have little to no 
bearing on the syntax or contents of the pages.

XHTML pages use HTML syntax, HTML pages use XHTML syntax, half the pages 
have no DOCTYPE at all, etc.

Even if we did add versioning to HTML5, there would be little to no 
correlation between pages using that versioning syntax and pages that were 
attempting to actually use HTML5 features and conform to HTML5.

This is one reason I don't think new modes will work -- just consider that 
even today, many *many* sites write pages in quirks mode, despite it 
having been effective obsolete for years. There are sites that actively 
(though unknowingly, probably) opt to use the ancient IE5 rendering 
strategy ("quirks mode") instead of using IE6/7 standards mode. If we add 
more versioning syntax, more rendering modes, people will just have a 
greater set of modes to randomly chose from.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 05:15:42 UTC

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