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Why bother? (was Re: The Semantic Debate)

From: Nicholas Chase <nchase@earthlink.net>
Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 14:09:33 -0400
Message-ID: <463F6B5D.7080006@earthlink.net>
To: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
CC: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>, 'Dan Connolly' <connolly@w3.org>, 'Anne van Kesteren' <annevk@opera.com>, www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org

Jonas Sicking wrote:

> Personally I'm very interested in how people use HTML4 today, because I 
> think largely they are going to keep using HTML5 the same way. If we 
> propose something that goes against what people are doing today, I 
> suspect it won't be used nearly as much as if we suggest something that 
> aids and enhances their current use practices. Granted, that is just a 
> hunch and I might be wrong.

I haven't been following the entire debate -- it's been a long time 
since I had time to read every single message that comes though, 
unfortunately -- so I'll apologize in advance if I touch on something 
that's been worked to death.

Having said that, I disagree.  People who want to do things like they 
did in HTML4 will just keep using HTML4.  But HTML5 has the potential to 
open up a whole NEW way of doing things FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT. 
If HTML5 abandons the constraints that HTML4 puts on it in order to 
enable things like easier tool integration, we might actually see things 
like older people -- which, by the way, the original HTML generation is 
quickly joining the ranks of, BTW -- using tools to create HTML pages 
that include intelligence in terms of semantics (little "s").

I'm not saying to break everything.  I remember how we all flipped out 
over XHTML and the simple requirement of well-formed tags (OMG!!!).  But 
if HTML5 can be presented in a way that simply lets both versions run 
side-by-side, so those who want to can use the new version, those that 
don't have a stroke trying to update for new browsers, then I think 
we're in good shape.

But at that point, people are only going to use HTML5 IF THERE IS A 
COMPELLING REASON.  In other words, just coming out with a new version 
for the sake of it isn't going to get anybody to use it.  There's got to 
be a good REASON, such as enabling tools that can spit out clean code 
with microformats attached so that better searching is enabled. 
(There's a chicken-and-egg for you; nobody's going to put in the effort 
to use microformats and other semantic technologies until there's a good 
reason, like better searching, but search engines won't bother until 
there's a decent amount of content to index.)

So maybe before we start beating each other up over the little things, 
we should answer the question of "Just what are we trying to accomplish 
FROM THE USER'S STANDPOINT?"

----  Nick
Received on Monday, 7 May 2007 18:10:06 UTC

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