W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > January 2009

Re: HTML is a declarative mark-up language

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2009 12:00:04 -0600
Cc: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <CF97C192-0B94-467F-A2A4-C54AF4DBE5E5@robburns.com>
To: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>

Hi Sam,

On Jan 29, 2009, at 6:33 AM, Sam Ruby wrote:

>
> Lachlan Hunt wrote:
>> Furthermore, the definition of hyperlink, which is immediately  
>> followed by the definition of the href attribute, states:
>>  "The a, area, and link  elements can, in certain situations  
>> described
>>   in the definitions of those elements, represent hyperlinks.
>>   The href attribute on a hyperlink element must have a value that  
>> is a
>>   valid URL. This URL is the destination resource of the hyperlink."
>> Here it is clearly stated that the href attribute gives the  
>> *destination resource of the hyperlink*.  How is that difficult to  
>> understand?
>
> If coming to that fresh, it is fairly straightforward.  But if you  
> have any history or take a look at any non-trivial subset of  
> existing web pages, it is either a bit confusing or incomplete.
>
> One other use anchor elements used to have is as a target of a link.  
> That usage may not be considered conforming, but it still is in wide  
> use.  Many pages will duplicate the value of id attributes as name  
> attributes and put both on <a> elements because some browsers which  
> now enjoy at most trace market share do not support id.
>
> Clearly the trend now is to associate URI fragment identifiers with  
> HTML id attributes, and id attributes that can serve as the target  
> of a hyperlink can appear on many elements, and not just ones that  
> are named <a>.  The current draft for "HTML 5: A vocabulary and  
> associated APIs for HTML and XHTML" choses to focus on providing the  
> information as to why this element is unique.

I would add that even without the legacy baggage it makes a lot of  
sense to continue to support <a> as a destination anchor. When an  
author want to make a specific phrase available as a document fragment  
that is not already wholly and completely enclosed within an element,  
the author can either use a <span> element or a <a> element. However,  
the HTML4.01 <a> element  is both more specific (it is supposed to be  
an anchor—destination in this case) and more compact than <span>.  
However, this is another case where HTML5 needlessly changes the  
meaning of an element in the HTML namespace which creates namespace  
collisions and also removes a valuable meaning of the element that  
authors had available in HTML5.

When taken one issue at a time, the erosion of the benefits of HTML4— 
the damage inflicted by HTML5—seems small and easily brushed aside.  
But when we look at all of the issues in total, the problems with the  
HTML5 draft are quite severe (DOM erosion, loss of clear semantics,  
accessibility features removed without replacement, etc). And if  
anyone who thought that HTML5 should be an unambiguous improvement  
over HTML4, the issues seem all that much worse.

Take care,
Rob
Received on Thursday, 29 January 2009 18:01:02 UTC

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