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<abbr>, <acronym> and initialisms

From: Matthew Raymond <mattraymond@earthlink.net>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 21:56:53 -0400
Message-ID: <460B1CE5.3030000@earthlink.net>
To: public-html@w3.org

   First of all, I've heard a lot of talk about Initialisms, and I've
also done a small amount of web research as well, and here's my
observations:

1) "Acronym" and "Initialism" are often treated as synonyms.

2) "Acronym" is the most commonly used of the two terms and is often
applied to both acronyms AND initialisms.

3) The difference between an acronym and an initialism appears to be
entirely based on aural presentation.

4) Many terms are acronyms for some and initialisms for others. In fact,
some terms, like "SQL", may be one or the other based on context
("mySQL" versus "SQL Server").

5) There are even hybrids between the two, such as JPEG and MS-DOS.

6) Both <abbr> and <acronym> are use so infrequently that they don't
crack the top ten elements list. (http://code.google.com/webstats/)

7) Acronyms are, in fact, abbreviations.

8) The difference between <acronym> and <abbr> in HTML 4.01 is poorly
defined.

9) Some of the confusion regarding <acronym> and <abbr> arises from the
historical inability to use both element in the same browser at the same
time.

   From the above observations, I draw the following conclusions:

1) Acronyms and Initialisms don't have sufficiently different semantics
to make marking them up separately practical. To try to have a new
element (<initialism>) or to use attribute values ("normal", "acronym"
or "initialism") would cause an order of magnitude more confusion than
<abbr> and <acronym> are causing already.

2) Because of the above conclusion, it logically follows that it makes
more sense to have <abbr> and <acronym> than to have <abbr
type="normal"> and <abbr type="acronym">.

3) While <acronym> is redundant to <abbr> as defined, we may be better
served with a refinement of their definitions than the removal of
<acronym>, especially since <acronym> will still need to be supported
for backwards compatibility purposes.
Received on Thursday, 29 March 2007 01:55:45 GMT

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