Re: New tags. (fwd) -Reply (fwd)

F. E. Potts (
Thu, 16 Jan 1997 08:57:56 -0700

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 08:57:56 -0700
From: (F. E. Potts)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: New tags. (fwd) -Reply (fwd)

On Wed, 15 Jan 1997 20:39:53 -0700, Paul Prescod wrote:
> Creeping presentationism (B, FONT, etc.) have made it near impossible
> to argue that "HTML [should] remain free of tags that apply only to
> presentation." The beginning and end of any such discussion will be:
> "If presentation markup is so bad, why does HTML 3.2 do it?" Which
> reduces us to shouting down individual proposals rather than making
> an argument based on design, architecture and direction.

I sometimes wonder about this debate over structure vs. presentation.
For those who are of the opinion that the popularization of the web was
a "Good Thing," there is no denying that had the SGML application HTML
not been a presentation DTD, and treated as such by the UA vendors, the
web would have remained a toy and tool of the scientific, educational,
and Unix communities, rather than the popular "success" it now is.

There is also no denying that for many short documents (as MegaZone
pointed out), as well as for those of Joe and Jane Homepage, this
"Master HTML in A Week" markup language has served a useful purpose.

For longer documents, of course, it is an entirely different story.

Now, please don't jump all over me for "Spirit of SGML" ignorance in
making the above observations: after all, I am presently writing my two
new books (one fiction, one nonfiction) using a modified version of the
ISO 12083:1994 Book DTD (and printing my pages using an appropriate
FOSI), so I am not totally ignorant of the issues involved.  And, in the
writing/publishing fields (in fact, within the history of SGML itself),
ISO 12083 -- previously ANSI/NISO Z39.59-1988 -- has a long and
honorable lineage (leading back to the AAP work that began in 1983).

My only point in making these comments is that the cat has long been
out of the bag, the general public thinks of HTML in a certain way
(which <emph>does not</emph> include structural validation), and we can
debate ourselves blue in the face and it ain't gonna do any good --
just look at all the "Viewed best in [whatever consumer browser is the
favorite tag-soup repository of the moment]" icons and notices that
litter the commercial segment of the web.

If I had my way, as I have stated before on this list, we would stop
messing with HTML (which is basically a silly application, considering
how easy it is to work in SGML), forget XML (mostly a marketing ploy,
as far as I can determine) and focus our efforts on getting the
infrastructure in place so we can post our native SGML instances on the
web without having to down-convert them into some lower-level markup

The above is just the opinion of a guy who has long worked in HTML, has
always treated it as SGML, and would just as soon the web evolved out
of the kindergarten it is in and grew up a bit (which, to me, means

The grumpiness of all this grew out of my recently having to convert the
Preface and Introduction of one of my new books from the delightful SGML
into 3.2 HTML -- certainly a desecration if ever there was one.