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Re: Design Principles

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 26 May 2009 18:28:58 +0000 (UTC)
To: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Cc: Anne van Kesteren <annevk@opera.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0905261819000.10857@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
> Ian Hickson On 09-05-26 12.34:
> > On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
> > > Ian Hickson On 09-05-26 06.38:
> > > > On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
> > > >         
> > > > > Another quote from the same page: "imperative that HTML be 
> > > > > extended in a backwards-compatible way".
> > > > > 
> > > > > So HTML 4 is winning. And HTML 5 has to be backwards-compatible.
> > > > > 
> > > > > It really sounds from this as if it is very important to be 
> > > > > compatible with HTML 4.
> > > > 
> > > > No, being backwards compatible with the HTML4 spec is worthless. 
> > > > It's being backwards compatible with legacy content and 
> > > > implementations that matters (and that has been a cornerstone of 
> > > > the HTML5 effort).
> > >
> > > So it was not the HTML 4 of the spec that was winning but another 
> > > HTML4?
> > 
> > In the context of the interview, what is the difference between these 
> > two HTML4s? I don't understand the question.
> 
> Tell me about that other HTML 4, please. I really wonder how one can say 
> that HTML 4 is winning and mean that something that isn't in the HTML 4 
> spec is winning.

I didn't say the HTML4 _spec_ was winning, I said HTML4 was winning; that 
is, the HTML language as deployed on the Web (what you would probably call 
"text/html", but most people wouldn't understand that, so I didn't say 
that in the interview).

There is a big difference between "the current official revision of HTML", 
which is HTML4.x, and "the specification of the current official revision 
of HTML". It's the same as the difference between "HTML 5 the spec" and 
"HTML5 the vocabulary and text/html serialisation".

Basing "HTML 5-the-spec" on "HTML4-the-spec" is IMHO an exercise in 
futility because of the fundamental problems in "HTML4-the-spec" such as 
its vagueness and near-complete lack of implementation conformance 
criteria. Thus, "HTML 5-the-spec" and "HTML5-the-vocabulary" and "HTML5- 
the-serialisation" are all based on "HTML4-the-language-as-implemented- 
and-deployed-in-legacy-content", which has only a vague relationship to 
"HTML44-the-spec".

In fact, it is the vagueness of the relationship between "HTML4-as- 
deployed", what one might call "reality", and "HTML4-the-spec", what one 
might call "theory", which is one of the biggest problems that I am trying 
to fix with HTML5. My goal is that with HTML5 there be no difference 
between how HTML5 is deployed in implementations and how the spec _says_ 
it should be deployed in implementations.


> > > > > It really sounds as if mentioning HTML 4 should have had close 
> > > > > to high weight. (Except that the air we are breathing is called 
> > > > > HTML 4 so we really should have something more unobvious to 
> > > > > say.)
> > > > > 
> > > > > Perhaps you really meant that the DOM is winning? That 
> > > > > "text/html" is winning? However, that sounded so boring ...
> > > >
> > > > Not sure what you mean. I meant that HTML has a high deployment 
> > > > rate today (in terms of user agents and content) compared to Flash 
> > > > and Silverlight, and that the HTML5 work is intended to continue 
> > > > this trend.
> > >
> > > XHTML is also HTML.
> >
> > I don't understand what this means
> 
> The high deployment of HTML that you talk about includes a lot of XHTML.

As I see it there are two ways to define "XHTML" deployment: Deployment in 
the sense that documents have an XHTML DOCTYPE, and deployment in the 
sense that documents actually get processed according to the XHTML 
specification's rules (e.g. using an XML parser).

Last I checked, about 15% of content had an XHTML DOCTYPE.
Last I checked, about 0.002% of content was processed as XHTML.

I don't consider the presence of the DOCTYPE an indicator of deployment in 
any useful sense. I don't consider 0.002% a high deployment rate.


> > or its relevance to either my comments above or the discussion as a 
> > whole.
> 
> I just note that one can praise "HTML 4" outside the WG. But when "HTML 
> 4" is mentioned here, it is used as pretext for dismissing the argument.

"HTML4-the-deployed-language" is clearly a wild success. If it wasn't, I 
wouldn't be interested in working on HTML5! There's a huge difference, 
however, between the language as deployed, and the language as specified. 
The "HTML4-the-spec" document is the one that is widely criticised. I do 
not believe that arguments that use "HTML4-the-spec" as a base are 
generally to be given much weight. I do believe that arguments that use 
"HTML4-as-deployed" are to be given a lot of weight.

I hope this clarifies the confusion.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 26 May 2009 18:29:30 GMT

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