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Re: missing principle

From: Henk-Jan de Boer <html-wg@hjdeboer.nl>
Date: Tue, 01 May 2007 16:48:40 +0200
Message-ID: <46375348.5050504@hjdeboer.nl>
To: "Philip Taylor (Webmaster)" <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
CC: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Philip Taylor (Webmaster) schreef op 1-5-2007 15:23:
> In the view of many (most ?), HTML is /abused/ in e-mail.  E-mail
> is about the communication of information, and can invariably
> best be accomplished using text/plain.
I think that the World Wide Web as a collection of websites is about the 
communication of information too, but on a more massive scale.

Furthermore it would be unrealistic to hope that one day all use of 
HTML, or abuse as you say, will be abandonned.You don't get practical 
and succesful sulutions by forbidding certain use of this standards. 
Whether you love it or hate it, HTML /is/ used for fancy stuff in 
e-mails and nearly any e-mail client /has/ support for it. So it's 
already a very common practice. A statement in the HTML5 spec that it's 
content SHOULD NOT or MUST NOT be used in any other application than the 
WWW, will certainly not stop those e-mailclients from using it.
Saying that text/plain should be used for e-mail instead of HTML, or 
that XML should be used as an exchange format for applications in stead 
of HTML doesn't alter the fact that it's use /is/ widespread and that no 
specification will change that.

I agree with Daniel Glazman here: HTML is everywhere and the HTML 
Working Group is designated most to take this ways of use into account 
when writing a new version of the spec.

I know that this is a design principle and it's not really suitable to 
apply on this discussion about the scope of the WG, but still I would 
like to add here the following phrase: Pave The Cowpaths - "When a 
practice is already widespread among authors, consider adopting it 
rather than forbidding it or inventing something new." That's a nice way 
to say: deal with the fact that some things are used less puristic but 
more practical. When applied to this discussion, I would say: we simply 
must deal with the fact that HTML is used for e-mail or as an exchange 
format. Denying that won't stop it.

My point of view at this point is the following. The HTML WG should be 
aware of the multifunctional use of HTML eventhough HTML was primarily 
designed for the markup of online documents, simply because it still is 
HTML in the end. Sure, taking other ways of use into account would make 
the spec more complex, but arguing that other applications than the WWW 
are beyond the scope of this WG, simply because we're a working group of 
the /World Wide Web/ Consortium, doesn't make much sense to me. In my 
opinion, it's the language as a whole that we are evolving. That 
language is our concern. In that perspective, I don't see why we should 
have platform-neutrality and device-independency as a goal and limit 
that evolvement to web browsers only at the same time.

That said, I'm not sure what the practical implications would be for 
this working group. It could become more complex to write the spec. 
You'd also have to consult software vendors that make e-mailclients and 
so on. Still, I think that complexity should not stop the working group 
from exploring the possibilities to deal with the 'ubiquity of HTML' in 
advance.

Regards,
Henk-Jan de Boer
Received on Tuesday, 1 May 2007 14:48:56 UTC

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