W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > August 2013

Re: updated cite definition - please review

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jukka.k.korpela@kolumbus.fi>
Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:32:41 +0300
Message-ID: <521DB5A9.6040000@kolumbus.fi>
To: Bruce Lawson <brucel@opera.com>
CC: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
2013-08-28 11:12, Bruce Lawson wrote:
> On 25 August 2013 19:19, Jukka K. Korpela <jukka.k.korpela@kolumbus.fi> wrote:
>> If there were an element called <z> in HTML, with italic as default
>> rendering in browsers, and some authors used it to denote names of trees,
>> and some other to denote impressive things, and yet some other to mark up
>> green things, and all the rest using for various purposes, it would be
>> pointless to discuss what the "right" usage is or to collect statistics of
>> existing usage, or to study definitions of <z> in past specifications. The
>> only sensible thing that browsers, search engines, and other software could
>> do, and would do, is to treat <z> as an element with unknown meaning and no
>> effect, except for the default rendering (if it is an established practice).
> But there isn't a <z> element, so this is a red herring.

The <cite> element is very similar to <z> in uselessness. Well, <cite> 
causes italic font by default, but you can achieve just the same with 
the more concise <i>.

>   There *is* a
> <cite> element, which used to be allowed for marking up titles of
> works and authors of cited works,

That was two different old specs. One of them allowed it for titles, the 
other allowed it for citations including author names. Either of these 
could in principle have been a useful definition, since it would at 
least allow some conceivable processing for the element in search 
engines, structured data extraction, etc. (even though nothing like that 
ever happened). The amalgamated “semantics” makes <cite> even 
theoretically as useless as the hypothetical <z>.

> There are people who wish to denote authors, and millions of
> websites that already use <cite> to denote author name.
People want to denote many things. Millions of websites probably use 
<cite> to denote quotations, too. (Saying that it must/should not be 
used for quotations effectively says that it is.) Should that be thrown 
in, too, into the “semantics”?


> The fact that software can't tell the difference between a cited work
> and a cited author is not a reason to keep the spec from specifying
> common existing practice.

All that matters in the common existing practice is that <cite> is by 
default rendering in italic (when possible). Everything else is just 
idle and confusing “semantics” in the worst meaning of the word – unless 
someone can come up with an example (even a very theoretical thought 
experiment) what could possibly be done with <cite> on the basis of the 
proposed semantic definition. As far as I can see, any assumption about 
the meaning, or even structural relationship to the surrounding content 
(beyond pure syntactic nesting) would conflict with much of existing usage.

“Cite” is a legacy element that has been used to mark up titles of 
works, names of authors, quotations, and other things. It cannot be 
defined semantically in any useful way that would not conflict with much 
of the existing usage. Ergo, it should be just documented as one of the 
elements that cause italic rendering by default. It should be regarded 
as obsolete, but conforming – there is no reason to punish authors for 
using it.

-- 
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 08:33:04 UTC

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