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Please Specify Behavior for @rel="next | prev"

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 03:01:45 -0400
Message-ID: <4A90E959.8040609@w3.org>
To: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>
Hi, HTML WG-

I was pleased to see that the sequential structure represented in many 
kinds of sites (galleries, forums, search results, tutorials, articles, 
etc.) is touched on in the HTML5 spec. [1]

However, the 'next' [2] and 'prev' [3] keywords have been around for 
around 15 years, and while they are used in quite a lot of content, 
browsers still don't do anything with them. [4]

I'd like to see wording that recommends (MAY, possibly even SHOULD) that 
browsers expose this to users, in a UA-dependent manner; this might be 
pressing the left/right arrows (possibly in combination with some meta 
key), and/or a menu or UA option or button (obviously, the UA could 
allow the user to customize this, but should have a sensible default).

Activating the next/prev link should trigger the browser to navigate to 
that page.  The first instance of each would be the one followed.  This 
would allow users a consistent way to follow sequential links without 
having to hunt around on the page for the next/previous link, and by 
specifying it in HTML5 (finally), we could get interop.

This would apply to both <link rel="next | prev" href="..."> and  <a 
rel="next | prev" href="...">.  In my opinion, the latter is probably 
the more obvious approach, since it would not require duplicating the 
link, just marking existing links up appropriately (which many sites 
already do).  I believe that many sites also use the <link> version, 
possibly related to accessibility.  Choosing the first <a> or <link> 
that defines @rel as each of the next/previous would mean that both 
cases are covered.

I know the spec generally steers away from making UI requirements 
(though there are exceptions [5]), but this is clearly something that 
people want.  There have been several bugs filed on this with Mozilla, 
and probably on other browsers.  Authors have continued to create 
content that uses this even though it doesn't have a tangible effect.

I think this is one of those obvious bits of user-friendliness that has 
just fallen through the cracks, though it would be easy to implement. 
Specifying it now would enhance all that existing content in a way that 
was obviously intended by the authors, and would make it clear to 
authors how to enable this for future content.


[1] http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/history.html#sequential-link-types
[2] http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/history.html#link-type-next
[3] http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/history.html#link-type-prev
[4] http://schepers.cc/w3c/html/next-prev/
[5] http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/history.html#following-hyperlinks


Regards-
-Doug Schepers
W3C Team Contact, SVG and WebApps WGs
Received on Sunday, 23 August 2009 07:01:55 UTC

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