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

Re: Design Principles

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Sat, 30 May 2009 09:33:52 +0000 (UTC)
To: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Cc: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0905300912030.19521@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Fri, 29 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
> Ian Hickson On 09-05-27 04.12:
> > 
> > The HTML4 spec, however, only bears a vague resemblence to the syntax, 
> > elements, attributes, DOM APIs, and other aspects of what is generally 
> > known as HTML as implemented today and contemporary to Acid2 and 
> > Acid3, even though the HTML4 specification presumes to define what 
> > that is.
> 
> Vague resemblance when it comes to syntax, elements, attributes?

When it comes to pretty much everything, yes.


> > > If HTML 4 is silent about something, then there is no reality to 
> > > differ from.
> > 
> > HTML4 is silent about much, but it isn't silent about everything. What 
> > it is not silent about is usually wrong (e.g. saying browsers must not 
> > have a default encoding, whatever that means, or saying that all 
> > browsers, even speech synthesisers, must render quote marks around <q> 
> > elements, or saying that the default media="" is "screen", or saying 
> > that parsing should be done using SGML, or...).
> 
> But this is pretty low fruit. Obvious bugs.

I don't disagree that many of these problems are pathetically simple to 
fix, yes. I don't really see that that makes much difference, though.

When one wants to make a big thick blanket with yellow dots, if one has a 
white handkerchief, one could start with the handkerchief, and add cloth 
around it, and sew dots onto it, and so on, or, one could start with a 
large piece of whole cloth and just not worry about trying to adapt the 
handkerchief into the big blanket.

It's far easier in such a case to start with whole cloth.

But again, if anyone wants to try starting with HTML4, I encourage them to 
do so. There is no need to take my word for it. I'm just describing what I 
(and others at the time, and maybe still now) felt was the best course of 
action. I certainly don't intend to start over now myself.


> > > > > The high deployment of HTML that you talk about includes a lot 
> > > > > of XHTML.
> > > 
> > > Those 15% can at least not be counted as "HTML 4 as she are spoke". 
> > > Perhaps we could call it "XHTML treated as HTML 4 are spoke".
> > 
> > I don't understand the relevance of this line of argumentation.
> > 
> > In practice it doesn't matter what the DOCTYPE is; it has little 
> > bearing on which specification the rest of the document more closely 
> > follows, and it has no bearing (beyond quirks mode detection) on what 
> > the browsers do with the content.
> 
> As you know, many have been switching to XHTML - consciously, albeit 
> perhaps in incomplete ways.  It is true that many mix the syntaxes - 
> _both directions_.  I agree that the "HTML 4" parsing of XHTML is 
> "winning". But I don't find it fair to count XHTML in text/html as HTML 
> 4 no matter how much you try to diminish it.

I don't really understand the relevance of this, so I don't have any 
reason to argue this particular point further.


> > > Or do you mean that deployed HTML 4 contradicts the specified HTML 
> > > 4?
> > 
> > Yes, this certainly happens a lot.
> 
> Examples that are not obvious bugs?

Section 16.2, third paragraph, the blanket statement is incorrect for 
<script> elements; doing so will not cause the frameset to be ignored.


> > It's not anywhere near as big a problem as the near-complete lack of 
> > conformance criteria in HTML4, though, or the extreme vagueness of the 
> > semantics defined in HTML4.
> 
> (Not so important, but examples of "extreme vagueness of the 
> semantics"?)

HTML4 doesn't define what a section is, so it isn't clear which headings 
apply to which elements, e.g. in the following example:

   ...
   <body>
    <p>A</p>
    <h1>B</h1>
    <p>C</p>
    <div>
     <h2>D</h2>
     <p>E</p>
    </div>
    <p>F</p>
    <h1>G</h1>
    <p>H</p>
   </body>

...what is the heading that applies to each of A through H? What is the 
resulting document outline?

(I am pretty sure I can literally pick _any_ section in the HTML4 spec and 
find examples of errors or vagueness.)


> > > I cannot see how one can talk about deployment without reference to 
> > > specification.
> > 
> > The Win32 API has huge deployment numbers, but no formal 
> > specification.
> > 
> > On the Web, the XMLHttpRequest object was deployed and widely used 
> > long before it had a specification of any kind.
> 
> (OK. But since HTML 4 has a spec, it was more valid.)

I have no idea what that means.


> I understand that you also wanted to have a say on the semantics and 
> over all structure/vocabulary, though. But in an ideal process, the UA 
> side and the vocabulary side should have had two different editors that 
> were trumping each others. ;-) The "browser editor" could tell the 
> "vocabulary editor" about "the costs" of having one feature too much. 
> But at least it would be up to the "vocabulary editor" to make the right 
> choices within the frame that he "browser editor" gave.

I don't know if I agree that that would be a productive way of developing 
a spec, but I can certainly agree that in an ideal world there would be 
many more specification editors. I've been looking for more editors for 
literally years with minimal success (less than half a dozen people have 
started working on specifications related to HTML5 since we started 
working on HTML5, and none of them are working on this full-time).

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Saturday, 30 May 2009 09:34:26 UTC

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