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XHTML Basic and XHTML modularization: CODE, VAR, KBD and SAMP

From: Jonny Axelsson <jonny@metastasis.net>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 13:59:10 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: www-html@w3.org

Don't get me wrong, these are clearly defined and very useful elements in
their context. But they are legacy elements from the early days of HTML,
where it was used to a large extent for coding. If there were to be
elements with predefined meaning today, elements like ABSTRACT, BYLINE,
CAPTION (for pictures), HYPERBOLE, PULLQUOTE... would make much more sense.
Programmers belong to a small special interest group, catering to them
especially in XHTML Basic would be counterproductive.

I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of HTML producers will
never use this module the way it was intended. Most will prudently ignore
these elements, some will see these "free" elements (that they would never
use normally) as  experimental ones to play around with.

There is a particular danger. If CODE is available, and TT is not, and
either styles are not available or the designer is ignorant of them, some
of the clever ignorant designers will use CODE to encode TT. Even if that
is a minority of a minority, that minority will still outnumber the ones
using CODE properly.


In my opinion, the cleanest option is to strip off all semantic elements
from the kernel of XHTML. Having elements with universal meaning were a lot
easier when the Universe was the University. One approach would be to make
special interest modules (that is XHTML elements with predefined meaning),
science and programming, academia, press, office, manufacturing... That
would be back to the pre-XML days, so leaving this to XML seems a more
reasonable course.

These elements should be in XHTML Basic
Structural elements: body, head, html, title, div, span (these are basic
both for documents and data)
Fundamental text elements: h1-h6, p; also blockquote, q, abbr, em (only
relevant for documents)
Special: br and pre (these can also be defined in style sheets)

These should be in XHTML 1.1, but not in XHTML Basic
Interoperable text elements: b, i, sub, sup, tt?
"Semantic" elements: address, cite, dfn (must pass test of universality and
Legacy programming module: code, var, kbd and samp

ADDRESS is losing out. The traditional 1994 web page is far less common,
and ADDRESS really doesn't have the power and flexibility needed for its
CITE may be ambigous. My association to "citation" is scientific citation
(true to its roots), the examples I have seen tends to legal citations
(similar, but different, still has "citation-ness" to it), I suspect the
use of this element varies widely. Incidentally, why doesn't CITE have a
CITE attribute?
DFN may be the safest of these. Most producers would agree what a
definition is. I think.

These are my opinions based on my samples of documents. I don't know if
there is any research on actual usage of the semantic tags (and HTML coding
in general) based on a large and representative sample. A State of the Web
report would be very useful.
Received on Tuesday, 22 February 2000 08:00:02 UTC

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