Re: Deprecated Language Constructs

Daniel W. Connolly (connolly@beach.w3.org)
Wed, 02 Aug 1995 19:13:13 -0400


Message-Id: <199508022313.TAA01361@beach.w3.org>
To: mjhanna@sandia.gov (Michael J Hannah)
Cc: www-html@w3.org
Subject: Re: Deprecated Language Constructs 
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Tue, 01 Aug 1995 15:32:41 +0700."
             <9508012132.AA13077@sass027.sandia.gov> 
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 1995 19:13:13 -0400
From: "Daniel W. Connolly" <connolly@beach.w3.org>

In message <9508012132.AA13077@sass027.sandia.gov>, Michael J Hannah writes:
>With this definition of the term, I do not understand the concern of
>"breaking" existing documents.  If the concerns are valid, then _NO_
>construct in the language that was at all widely used could _ever_
>be deprecated.  Am I missing something?

Nothing technical -- it's mostly a cultural thing. Backwards
compatibility is a religion on the net and the web.

And even in a production software environment, you can't really remove
features, no matter how slowly or how much warning you give.

Well... you _can_, but you'd better have a DARNED GOOD REASON.
This brings us to...

>The idea is to have such a better new way to do things that people stop
>using the old (deprecated) way for all newly created documents,

I frankly don't see what's wrong with <ul>, <ol>, and <dl>. The users
grok, the software groks, everything's hunky-dory. These are distinct
communications idioms. In language design, orthogonality should only
be taken so far. It's good language design to optimize for common
idiomis -- especially in a document markup language, as oppose to 
a programming language.

Consider the cost of migrating from the current idioms to your
proposed idioms: all that software has to get fixed (no big deal), we
have to hammer out the spec, all those HTML introductions, books,
tutorials, references, test suites, ... and finally: all those PEOPLE
have to learn the new idiom. (Studies show it takes 3x as long
to learn something if you know already know it in a contradicting
form as if you're learning it fresh. "Can't teach an old dog new
tricks," I guess.)

And for all that hassle, what do they get? As far as I can tell,
exactly the same expressive power as they already had.

Sorry, I just don't think it's worth the bother.

Dan