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Re: DOCTYPE versioning change proposal (ISSUE-4)

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 13:38:00 +0200
Message-Id: <98D439D4-6A17-4CCA-85D0-23EAD09A2858@iki.fi>
To: HTMLwg WG <public-html@w3.org>
On Dec 1, 2009, at 10:00, Larry Masinter wrote:

> The form with a “html version string” SHOULD NOT be used unless the content is served in a controlled environment where the intended version is known.

Quoting the charter:

"There is a single specification deliverable for the HTML Working Group, the HTML specification, a platform-neutral and device-independent design with the following items in scope:

	• A language evolved from HTML4 for describing the semantics of documents and applications on the World Wide Web. This will be a complete     specification, not a delta specification."

The language aspect of the deliverable is scoped to documents and applications on the *World Wide Web*. Clearly, the Web isn't a "controlled environment". I think language features aimed solely at controlled environments fall outside the charter of this WG.

As Hixie mentioned, anyone who wants to reuse HTML in a controlled environment can add their own features. After all, they control the environment.

> The html version string is allowed primarily because it may be useful for content management systems and other development workflows  as a kind of metadata to indicate which specification was being consulted when the HTML content was being prepared.

Do you have concrete examples of existing content management systems using this kind of metadata e.g. by distinguishing HTML 2.0, HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0 and 4.01 upon ingest and performing distinct processing depending on the version label? "May be useful" is a weak and vague reason to introduce a feature.

When a content management system serves content on the Web, it's no longer in a controlled environment and, therefore, should use <!DOCTYPE html> anyway at that point.

>    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//WHATWG//HTML 20100401">
> for the 2010 April 1 version of the WhatWG edition of the specification.

The choice of the example date confuses me. I'm unable to tell if it's meant as a hint of a joke of some kind.

On Dec 1, 2009, at 10:25, Jirka Kosek wrote:
> +1
> Excellent, thank you Larry.

Should this be taken as a change of opinion since

On Dec 1, 2009, at 14:00, David Carlisle wrote:

> One possible disadvantage of the form with PUBLIC only is that it can't
> be used in XML so you can't easily preserve the versioning information
> marked this way into the XHTML serialisation.

Indeed. It also isn't exposed via the SAX ContentHandler interface. (Whenever one is designing an XML language whose processing depends on information not exposed via ContentHandler, one may assume one is committing a design error.)

On Dec 2, 2009, at 02:20, Larry Masinter wrote:

> Rationale: DOCTYPE has been part of HTML and is required. While it has limited utility, it isn’t “mostly useless”. This proposal does not add any new headers or elements to HTML, but shows the evolution and reasons for no longer relying on DOCTYPE to affect browser behavior.  For additional rationale and discussion, seethe HTML WG tracker ISSUE-4:  http://www.w3.org/html/wg/tracker/issues/4 

This doesn't look like a proper rationale to me. I thought the point of requiring a rationale in Change Proposals was that the burden is on the author of the Change Proposal to formulate a coherent rationale instead merely referring to past discussion. Overcoming this burden serves as an indication that the author of the Change Proposal believes the proposed change is important enough to bother. Referring to past discussion leaves the burden of deducing the rationale to every interested WG participant, which is inefficient considering the overall productivity of the WG.

Given that the Change Proposal template includes an item "Cons" and that versioning has been discussed extensively in the WG in early 2007, I think it would be appropriate for the Change Proposal to recount the 'cons' that were expressed in previous discussions. (More recently, flaws of optional versioning on the Web have been discussed in the context of the @profile/@version draft by Manu and Julian.)

On Dec 2, 2009, at 02:25, Larry Masinter wrote:

> Impact: This change proposal creates no change to any conformance class of HTML interpreting agent (user agent, search engine, translation gateway, etc.)

I think changes that don't change the requirements on any conformance class don't make sense. Surely a feature must require some functional change to something to be useful at all.

Henri Sivonen
Received on Friday, 4 December 2009 11:38:45 UTC

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