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Polyglot Markup Formal Objection Rationale

From: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2012 15:59:50 +0100
Message-ID: <509682E6.5090504@lachy.id.au>
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
At the HTML F2F, I was asked to provide rationale for my previously 
filed formal objection to the Polyglot Markup specification.

http://dev.w3.org/html5/status/formal-objection-status.html
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2011May/0050.html

This rationale includes:

1. Why the html-polyglot authoring guidelines should be produced as a
    *non-normative* document, and
2. Why it *should not* be published on the recommendation track.

1. Normative vs. Non-Normative

Specifications should be considered normative when they seek to define 
implementation and authoring conformance criteria.  Documents that 
merely seek to describe authoring practices or provide tailored 
information to a particular audience about content which is normatively 
defined elsewhere, should be non-normative.

The HTML5 specification already normatively defines the conformance 
criteria for all of the features employed in both serialisations.  The 
necessary requirements to meet in order to produce a polyglot document 
are inherently logical conclusions from these criteria.

The polyglot guidelines only serves to document the overlap of the two 
serialisations as a convenience for authors who wish to pursue this 
style of document production, and should not try to normatively define 
that which is already normatively defined in HTML5.

Such duplication of normative definitions has the potential for 
introducing unintentional conflict between the two specifications.  By 
ensuring that the polyglot guidelines remain non-normative, then it is 
clear that, even in the case of such a conflict, the HTML5 
specification's normative requirements take precedence over the 
guidelines' non-normative descriptions.

2. Recommendation Track vs. Note Track

The Recommendation track implies a level of endorsement from the group 
that I do not believe is warranted in the case of these guidelines. 
Note that the boiler-plate Status section of a W3C Recommendation 
clearly states:

   "This document has been reviewed by W3C Members, by software
    developers, and by other W3C groups and interested parties, and is
    endorsed by the Director as a W3C Recommendation."
    -- Pubrules (W3C)

Publication as a recommendation could lead to the perception by the 
greater web community that the HTML WG itself endorses and recommends 
the adoption of these authoring practices by web developers.

However, support among the working group members for producing or 
recommending the production of polyglot documents is far from universal. 
  It is therefore not in the interests of the working group to either 
discourage, nor endorse through the recommendation track, the authoring 
of polyglot documents.

Publication as a note, instead, allows authors to obtain information 
about producing polyglot documents if they choose, without implying any 
such endorsement, nor discouragement, from the working group itself.

-- 
Lachlan Hunt - Opera Software
http://lachy.id.au/
http://www.opera.com/
Received on Sunday, 4 November 2012 15:00:14 UTC

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