Re: Meta Refresh syntax

E. Stephen Mack (
Tue, 15 Jul 1997 02:44:10 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 02:44:10 -0700
From: "E. Stephen Mack" <>
Subject: Re: Meta Refresh syntax
In-Reply-To: <>

Simone Demmel wrote:
>I think the w3-proposal is better, because something like:
><meta http_equiv="REFRESH" content="3; URL=bla"> is not logic. [...]
>In this way: content="number,URL" is clear and simple.         [...]
>I hope Netscape and IE will see this too and change it in the next

Oh, I agree the proposed syntax is clearer and more logical.
And I too hope the next versions adopt the new syntax.

However, I'm bearing in mind the experience of HTML 3.0; if
there are too many changes that prevent backwards-compatibility,
the popular browsers won't adopt the proposed standard and will
just go their own way--adopting some parts of the 4.0 standard
but ignoring others, despite claiming to "fully" support HTML 4.0.

The last thing I want to see is HTML 4.0 become a proposed
recommendation and go through all the effort to be finalized
-- only to be ignored by the market forces and whims that shape
the popular browsers.  (Perhaps that would prompt an HTML 4.2
sometime next year or the year after that "captures current
practices."  Not only would it be a real shame to lose the
excellent ideas drafted in HTML 4.0, but I'd also have wasted
the last three months and the next two weeks co-writing an HTML
4.0 book.)

In some ways, it's a thin line.  For particularly horrible
extension syntaxes (of which existing http-equiv meta refresh
syntax is a prime example), sometimes I think the W3C needs to bite
the bullet and accept what's in use, IF it can be reconciled.

For completely broken and irredeemable extensions, an alternative
is proposed by HTML 4.0 in the hopes that the next generation of
browsers adopts it.

HTML 4.0 "embraces" (or at least grudgingly acknowledges) some
existing things, and proposes some new ways of doing existing things.
Part of my purpose here is to uncover some of the changes and:

A. Make sure the changes are intentional and won't have
   dire consequences on existing pages (*), and 
B. Try to have a note added to the "Changes" or "Notes"
   or in the explanation itself if there is a difference
   between current practices and the 4.0 syntax.

It's not that I don't agree with the changes.  In general,
I think the HTML 4.0 draft makes some excellent and
innovative decisions -- cleverly capturing some practices,
and deprecating or obsoleting other practices that deserve it.

(*) By dire consequences, I mean that I don't want Web authors
to face the dilemma of either (1) writing correct HTML that
is not understood by the popular browsers, or (2) writing invalid
HTML that *is* understood by popular browsers.

One big example of this dilemma that I see causing a transition
problem over the next year is the OBJECT element.  If the popular
browsers don't issue updated versions that fully understand OBJECT
quite quickly, then OBJECT will never catch on.  Since there
will be a large number of surfers using the 3's for a long
time, Web authors are going to be in quite a quandary as it is.
If there isn't a NS 4.02 and IE version that understands OBJECT
correctly real soon, I predict that EMBED will be used for
a long time.
E. Stephen Mack <>