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Re: Proposed amends to <small> element

From: Ben Millard <cerbera@projectcerbera.com>
Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2009 19:01:46 -0000
Message-ID: <AAFFF3E919B1480B96A30005F01CAB08@ben9xr3up2lv7v>
To: "Lachlan Hunt" <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Cc: "Bruce Lawson" <brucel@opera.com>, "HTML WG" <public-html@w3.org>

Lachlan Hunt wrote:
> Ben Millard wrote:
>> When I've have stumbled across pages with legalese, they didn't use
>> <small>.
> Or this example based on Google:
> <p><small>©2009 - <a
> href="/intl/en/privacy.html">Privacy</a></small></p>
> (Note: Google actually uses <font size="-2"> in place of <small>)

It also uses <font size=-2> for a list of links:

* <http://www.google.com/>

Nosing around a few other footers from that site, I found:

1. <p>:
2. <div id>:
3. <td align><font size=-1 color>:
4. <p>:
5. <p>:
6. <div class><small>:

3 and 5 use a visibly smaller text size. Surprisingly, 6 has normal-sized 
footer text, even though it's definitely using <small>:

<div class=footer><small>&copy;2008 Google - <a
      href="http://www.google.co.uk">Home</a> - <a
      href="http://www.google.co.uk/about.html">About Google</a> - <a
      href="http://www.google.co.uk/privacy.html">Privacy Policy</a> - <a
      href="TOS?hl=en">Terms of Service</a>

It's due to the stylesheet starting with this:

h1 td, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, div.topnav,
div.sidenav, div.sidesearch, div.sidequote, div.bottomnav, div.footer, 
td#sidebartitle { font-family: arial,sans-serif; }

The <small> in 6 includes the copyright notice along with 5 navigation and 
utility links after it in the <small>. These links are neither copyright nor 
side comments. So the one instance I found where <small> contained the right 
type of content, it contained more content of the wrong type.

At this stage, I'm feeling more confident that the semantics for <small> are 
at odds with real content. (Studying more pages would be more accurate, 

If I'm understanding the spec correctly:


To rewrite the footer in 6 with the <small> element as HTML5 defines it 
(along with making the semantics of footer as a whole more precise):

<p><small>&copy;2008 Google</small></p>
 <li><a href="/">Home</a></li>
 <li><a href="/about.html">About Google</a></li>
 <li><a href="/privacy.html">Privacy Policy</a></li>
 <li><a href="TOS?hl=en">Terms of Service</a></li>

Is that about right?

With some CSS based on this it could look the same as the current page:

footer {
 color: #6f6f6f;
footer p, footer ul, footer li {
 display: inline;
 margin: 0;
 padding: 0;
footer ul {
 font-size: smaller;

However, what benefit does the <small> have for authors and users? The site 
doesn't style that piece of text differently from other text. Because that 
text starts with the copyright symbol, its purpose is clear without <small>.

Ben Millard
Received on Saturday, 17 January 2009 19:02:43 UTC

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