Re: The Final Word On HTML

Peter Flynn (
26 Sep 1996 09:34:53 +0100

Date: 26 Sep 1996 09:34:53 +0100
From: Peter Flynn <>
Subject: Re: The Final Word On HTML
Message-id: <>

> Lately I have seen a lot of discussion from programmers in this group   
> talking about what they think HTML is -- criticizing every new HTML   
> development and every new item that Netscape or Microsoft might come up   
> with.    I have been coding HTML for just over a year now and I'm tired   
> of people saying HTML is only a rendering language.   

This is a common misunderstanding derived from the writings of some
people at the extremes of the spectrum: the SGML purists, for whom
HTML is an excrescence; and the users of wordprocessors and DTP systems,
who have not yet got as far as things like structure and persistence.

The current state of play is the result of browser authors not to
learning the language before they started to code. Instead of
incorporating a parser (freely available) into the browsers, they used
some of the original CERN code, which was only designed as a first pass
to identify a few tags, and which was insufficient for anything
resembling a formal parse.

It is perhaps worth remembering that they had this all the principles
of parsing and compliance and DTDs explained in detail to them in
November of 1993, and deliberately chose not to implement it (w3-mode
excepted :-), perhaps because it can be forbiddingly complex when you
see it in the raw for the first time.

It's not terribly important in the long run, as they seem now all to be
realising what it meant, and perhaps they needed to go through the
learning experience. Critics need to understand that the people who cut
the code were in the main people with no background in the text
processing or information management fields: their strength was
programming in C, so we need to cut them a little slack until they can
get to grips with SGML.