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Re: HTML 4.01 Strict table attributes and downplayed errors

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 07:45:50 +0000 (UTC)
To: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Cc: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0906080714160.16244@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Mon, 8 Jun 2009, Henri Sivonen wrote:
> On Jun 6, 2009, at 00:45, Ian Hickson wrote:
> > On Fri, 1 May 2009, Henri Sivonen wrote:
> > > 
> > > So if I want to have a relatively simple GUI table editor that can 
> > > read back what it has written but doesn't allow arbitrary styling to 
> > > avoid breaking the consistent design of the site, I have to not only 
> > > parse style='' values but parse arbitrary CSS and resolve class 
> > > selectors?
> > > 
> > > My concern isn't authoring in a text editor.
> > 
> > In a graphical editor all you would have to do is use unique class 
> > names (like com.example.numeric) and just ensure that those classes 
> > have the appropriate style in the style sheet.
> 
> Seriously? When there's already widely interoperable specific attributes 
> for this?

You are wildly oversimplifying "this". In practice a WYSIWYG tool isn't 
going to style a table in 90% CSS and then gain great benefits by 
specifying just the vertical and horizontal alignment using attributes, 
_especially_ considering that those attributes don't even provide the 
actual desired control (decimal alignment).

Styling a table involves complicated rules for getting the borders right, 
involves non-trivial padding even after getting the alignment right, can 
involve per-cell colouring, etc. At the end of the day, using the align="" 
and valign="" attributes to control alignment on cells is a false economy.

This is made significantly worse by the cost of including these attributes 
in the language, which is a serious hit to the credibility of argument 
that authors should separate their styles and semantics for improved 
accessibility, maintainability, and device-independence. I firmly believe 
that a big part of why HTML4 failed to wean people from Transitional is 
that it (even in Strict mode) gave credence to the idea that presenational 
markup was ok.

You mention a number of mottos in your last e-mail, but it's worth 
considering that most of them apply equally to arguments for align="" on 
<td>, for marginheight="" or margintop="" on <body>, for align="" on <p>, 
or for <center>, or for any number of other presentational features. For 
HTML5 I have taken, for the reasons described above, a pretty hard line on 
the "Media Independence" motto. For media-independent content like tabular 
data, we should keep HTML5 neutral on media-specific issues, only allowing 
media-dependence for media-specific features like <audio>, <img>, or 
<canvas>. This underlies the attempts to e.g. define <b> in a 
media-neutral manner, and the attempts to remove presentational markup 
that can't be justified in such a manner. (I have considered how we could 
turn "align" into a hint regarding numeric vs text or some such, but I 
haven't found a way to do it that could work.)

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Monday, 8 June 2009 07:46:27 GMT

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