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Re: Technical concerns about the addition of <main> to HTML

From: L. David Baron <dbaron@dbaron.org>
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2012 01:15:12 -0800
To: Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>
Cc: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20121206091512.GA26357@crum.dbaron.org>
On Wednesday 2012-12-05 09:51 +0000, Steve Faulkner wrote:
> It has been suggested that there are significant technical concerns from at
> least one set of implementers about the <main> feature [1], and therefore
> [2]
> 
> "<main> does not meet the high bar required to add a new element to HTML"
> 
> It would be super useful  if any implementers with technical concerns
> provided them publicly on this list as while feedback has been sought in a
> number of other fora [3] and while the feature has been officially rejected
> as per the  WHATWG process [4], the feature is being standardised through
> the W3C, not the WHATWG and has recently passed a CFC for FPWD at the W3C
> with no objections and ample support [5].

Since I seem to keep getting dragged into this despite it being
outside of my area of expertise (I think as a result of being on the
cc list of a private thread, despite not expressing an opinion there
either), I suppose it's best that I at least say what I think.

I'm quite sympathetic to the argument (which I thought I heard, but
I now can't find a citation for) that it's the only ARIA landmark
role that doesn't have a corresponding HTML5 element.  After all,
ARIA was originally sold to folks at Mozilla (in private
conversations at the 2007 technical plenary, if my memory is
correct) as a temporary stopgap to provide additional semantics
needed for accessibility until HTML5 was able to provide those
semantics.  I think it's a worthwhile goal for HTML to have enough
semantics to express what's in aria (or at the very least to express
the parts of aria that have proven to be useful based on
experience), so that aria can eventually become just a description
of the underlying model that doesn't need to appear in markup.

I also think there ought to be a high bar to adding new semantic
elements to HTML.  This is not because of the cost of
implementation; that's low.  It's because it increases the cost of
teaching good HTML authoring practices.  We ought to avoid leaving
students of HTML to puzzle over questions of the form "When do I use
element A vs. B?" unless we have a good reason to do so.  (For
example, when do I use <main> vs. use the other approaches in
http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/links.html#the-main-part-of-the-content ,
or both, or neither?)

So what would demonstrate the value of <main> to me?  Probably the
biggest thing would be examples of real pages where the use of
role=main improves accessibility, or where it would have improved
accessibility had it been used.  (This may well have been presented
somewhere; I just haven't seen it.)

I'm not at all close enough to the issue to draw a conclusion from
any of these things; I trust others to do that.  If I were being
asked to review a patch to add it to Mozilla (despite that I'd be
the wrong reviewer, since it's not my area of expertise), I'd
probably be asking for more information rather than accepting or
rejecting the patch.  So I'm neither a supporter nor an opponent of
<main> at this point:  probably not convinced enough to accept a
patch, but certainly nowhere near opposed enough to make a formal
objection at W3C.

-David

-- 
𝄞   L. David Baron                         http://dbaron.org/   𝄂
𝄢   Mozilla                           http://www.mozilla.org/   𝄂
Received on Thursday, 6 December 2012 09:15:37 UTC

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