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RE: The History of <aside> for sidebars

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Fri, 4 Sep 2009 14:27:07 -0700 (PDT)
To: "'Tab Atkins Jr.'" <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Cc: "'Lachlan Hunt'" <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>, "'Jonas Sicking'" <jonas@sicking.cc>, "'James Graham'" <jgraham@opera.com>, <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <009101ca2da6$74319cf0$5c94d6d0$@edu>
Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
>
> Certainly!  That was my argument, in fact - that the differences
> between <header>/<footer>/<aside> are purely visual when used as page
> structure.

Uhmm... I'll only back that half-way.  'Headers' and 'Footers' are 
structural elements which (I think) are pretty well understood.  In fact, I 
would suggest that in the print world (including Braille output, etc.) a 
'page' header and footer is a basic construct - the header and footer would 
traditionally contain persistent information (think header and footer in a 
MS Word document) - be it a 'Letterhead' branding or location footer 
(Offices in New York, London and Tokyo), and even non-visual users 
could/would benefit here.

> They share virtually identical "content models" (taking a
> colloquial definition of such, rather than the spec definition), with
> the only differences being based on visual styling (like blogrolls
> visually displaying best in a sidebar).

While in the abstract they are indeed all content containers, thousands of 
years of print history have attached a little more significance to header 
and footer than you would suggest (my cube colleague, with over 30 years 
experience in the print world, confirms this to me).  Programmatically of 
course you are correct, but contextually I think you are missing the mark.

There is little doubt that we likely also need a semantically rich container 
for information that would fit the ancillary, supplemental, related, 
corollary or (insert Thesaurus terms here) container, but I'm not sure that 
'aside' is/was the correct term (and it seems I'm not alone) [1][2] - 
perhaps sidebar *would* be better (fans of US-based legal television shows 
would know that a sidebar is a secondary 'conversation' in the courtroom)

>
> Structure-wise, they're all just <ui>.

No, I don't think so.  That they might be styled in a particular (perhaps 
even 'traditional') way is outside of the point: the content containers *do* 
have material that is generally related to - but outside the flow of - any 
given page, and that concept needs to be (at least should be) semantically 
acknowledged. But 'aside'? (my frequent use of parenthetical commentary 
is/are asides)


> The only reason they have
> different names is because those are the classes we give <div>s
> filling those roles to define their visual display, and classnames
> were the big determiner of what new elements to add in this realm.

The very fact that some content is sitting inside of a specific, 'not the 
main content' div suggests that it is, well, not the main content, and 
styling concerns aside, I believe that for all users / user agents we should 
be able to signify this idea programmatically - that is / was I believe the 
intent of <aside>.  The real problem is the choice of term, not the concept 
it seeks to address.

JF

[1 http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Sep/0237.html]
[2 http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Sep/0271.html]
Received on Friday, 4 September 2009 21:27:52 UTC

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