Re: Netscape & New HTML

Brian Behlendorf (brian@wired.com)
Fri, 21 Oct 1994 12:12:49 -0700 (PDT)


Date: Fri, 21 Oct 1994 12:12:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Brian Behlendorf <brian@wired.com>
To: Dylan Northrup <northrup@chuma.cas.usf.edu>
Cc: Multiple recipients of list <www-html@www0.cern.ch>
Subject: Re: Netscape & New HTML 
In-Reply-To: <Pine.3.87.9410211206.C8821-0100000@chuma>
Message-Id: <Pine.BSI.3.91.941021113835.26918E-100000@get.wired.com>

On Fri, 21 Oct 1994, Dylan Northrup wrote:
> But seriously, HTML provides a low-bandwidth way to specify the 
> aproximate positions and layout of text/pictures.  Using PostScript or 
> TeX or any other typesetting language increases the bandwidth by insane 
> amounts.  Better to add options on to the existing low-bandwidth 
> solutions than to go for something that will clog the 'Net and hog the 
> bandwidth.

I disagree.  If you start dangling the carrot of page-layout to document 
authors, they won't be happy until they have complete, *complete* control 
of how it looks.  Adding tags every once in awhile to approach a page 
layout language just isn't going to work - give them <center> now, give 
them <font> later, give them <pitch> and <indent> and <color> after that,
and pretty soon you have something that functions a whole lot like 
PostScript.  

> I agree that there may be some things that are unnecessary (hell and 
> damnation upon <BLINK>) but needed/useful markups such as <center> and 
> <font> will be used.  If they add something that people want and will 
> use, what's the problem?

The problem isn't so much a technical one as a social one.  Sure, we could
turn HTML into both a semantic markup language and a page layout language,
but let's not be half-assed about it.  Allow people to specify position of
text to the pixel.  Allow text to overflow into images.  Allow any and all
variety of fonts, with the ability to enscapsulate or href the fonts needed. 
Allow text to flow along a bezier curve.  Allow compositional graphics.  HTML
could have hundreds of tags, and hopefully the browsers would be smart enough
to fill in the details when needed.  Though I think we'd have an easier time
going the other direction, putting semantic information into PostScript or
PDF, but whatever.  

But we're not going to get there a couple of tags at a time, and if there is
a strong resolution that we want page layout control, (which there definitely
is), then let's do it for real.  The only solution that I have seen so far is
HTML 3.0 with style sheets.  If someone wants to take PDF or Postscript and
put semantic markup in it, let's see if that works too - it just might.  But
<center>, and now I'm possibly even convinced <p align=center>, is just the
wrong way to go - not because it's technically impossible, but because it
builds unrealistic expectations in people who see it as a solution to their
problems. And these people will then clamor for more page layout
possibilities, and gradually the semantic power of HTML will fall by the
wayside.  I mean, who's going to say <H1>Very Important Line</H1> when they
can say <font size=10>Very Important Line</font>?  Who's going to say
<address>brian@wired.com</address> when they can write <italics sans
serif><font size=3>brian@wired.com</font></italics>?  Who will care, as long
as it looks right on "their browser"?

Does the fact that I'm saying this from a magazine that wouldn't be 
in existance without Quark XPress mean anything?

</podium>

	Brian