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Re: Cleaning House

From: Philip Taylor (Webmaster) <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 16:30:30 +0100
Message-ID: <463B5196.5060209@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
CC: www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org



Henri Sivonen wrote:

> Focusing on authors wanting to convey things is a common fallacy in 
> semantic markup advocacy.
> 
> Semantic markup is about communication between parties. The purpose of 
> Web specs is to establish a common understanding between all parties so 
> that a priori bilateral agreements between particular authors and markup 
> consumers are not needed. If you pull "semantic" markup from your 
> sleeve, the consumer has no way of knowing what you mean without a prior 
> agreement.
> 
> Suppose I send your UA this:
>   <kappale>This is <korostettu>important</korostettu>!</kappale>
> how is your UA going to implement behavior appropriate for the semantics 
> of the elements without either
> a) a spec for this markup language and a human implementing behavior for 
> it in your UA
> or
> b) artificial intelligence that reads Finnish
> ?
> 
> Perhaps the problem is that the semantics are expressed in Finnish, but 
> so far UAs don't have English AI, either.

Dear Henri : thank you for the courtesy of addressing my proposal.
I did not intend to suggest that one could simply include
additional elements in an HTML document without formality :
rather, I was proposing a TeX-like approach whereby one
could add elements in a more formalised manner, defining
their syntax (but not their semantics) in terms of existing
elements.  In your message above, <kappale> and <korostettu>
might (for example) be defined as sub-classes of <div> and
<span> respectively (if you intended them as I think).
In the absence of any CSS rules corresponding to these
new elements, a browser (user agent) would render them just
as it would <div>s and <span>s respectively.  But by providing
corresponding CSS rules, you could indicate an alternative
rendering that might better bring out their meaning.  There
is no need (IMHO) for the browser (user agent) to /understand/
the semantics, any more than a browser "understands" what <code>,
<kbd>, <samp> or <var> really mean.  The purpose of semantic
markup is to separate content from form, to improve accessibility,
and to provide an infrastructure whereby additional value can
be derived from a properly tagged document using appropriate
tools.  There is no reason at all why a Finn should not mark
up his/her document using <kappale> and <korostettu> if he/she
wishes : I suspect that far more would do so (if they could)
than would use any of <code>, <kbd>, <samp> or <var>, all of which
appear in the current WHATWG HTML5 specification.

Philip Taylor
Received on Friday, 4 May 2007 15:30:56 GMT

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