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Re: Physical markup concept snag

From: Nir Dagan <nir@nirdagan.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 12:04:22 -0500
Message-Id: <200001201701.MAA05363@vega.brown.edu>
To: j proctor <jproctor@oit.umass.edu>, www-html@w3.org
In my view the issue is to what extent HTML is a document 
format and to what extent it is a metadata format.

The answer is that in practice it is much more a document format, and
that now that we have spceial formats for metadata it is going to stay 
this way. 

I think that <b> and <strong> are exactly identical in every practical 
and theoretical respect (up to the wording of some specs.), 
so it is a matter of taste.

If one wants to have two types of strong emphsise/bold
one can use <b> and <strong>, or <b> and <b class="foo"> 
or <strong> and <strong class="foo">. Without styling they'll look the same
(even in speech browsers) and with styling they may be different.  

As for the time table example. Using <span class="afternoon"> has a meaning
different than <b> only to the author of the document in question.
That is, search engines are not going to do anything fundamentally 
different with these two options.

So the <span> method is preferred only if the author uses the HTML document
the metadata document about the time table. 
Actually <b class="afternoon"> seems to do the same thing, and in addition
the required rendering.

A common myth is that <strong> is better than <b>
since it gives the user (or browser) the option to control the style
better. This is wrong since <b> and <strong> all have the same 
syntax properties in HTML and admit the same style rules.

In addition, all existing browsers including of speech medium 
treat <b> and <strong> the same in their default style. 
So the speach browser example could have been useful 15 years ago,
when all browsers were hypothetical. 

In summary <b> does not mean "bold for bold's sake". It doesn't 
mean bold at all, it means the same thing as <strong>. This is because 
effectively all applications treat them identically, although historically
there was an intention that they'll have a different meaning.

It seems that both will stay forever, making the HTML DTD more complicated 
than the optimal DTD.

If any of the two has to retire, it should be <strong>, because it 
is less used, and because it is less efficient when considering 
that transfer time is an important issue on the Web.


At 04:14 PM 1/19/00 -0500, j proctor wrote:
>In the HTML 4.01 spec, the logical markup tags (EM, STRONG, etc.) are
>defined fairly clearly:  "Phrase elements add structural information to
>text fragments. ... EM and STRONG are used to indicate emphasis."
>Okay, I got that.  When I want to emphasize text, use EM or STRONG.
>But there are also those lingering physical markup tags (B, I, etc.),
>which "specify font information. Although they are not all deprecated,
>their use is discouraged in favor of style sheets."
>Now I'm trying to write some discussion of why, for instance, STRONG is
>really preferable to B, in the context of preparation for a fairly strict
>internal style guide.  I can think of all sorts of good reasons that a
>user agent might get something useful out of logical STRONG that just
>can't be assumed from physical B, such as modulating the speech of a
>reader for the blind, but I can't think of any counterexamples.
>The closest I've come so far is a bus schedule, where bold text is often
>used (in the U.S., anyway) to distinguish morning from afternoon times,
>rather than repeat AM and PM all over the place.  But that, to me, is a
>very clear example of an application for style sheets.  Sure, '<B>' is
>much shorter and easier to type than '<SPAN class="time-pm">', but in
>light of the nudge towards CSS, it certainly doesn't seem more *correct*.
>So what does it mean to have bold text simply for bold's sake, and not
>because the author intends it to be strongly emphasized?  Where is it
>more appropriate for an author to use B?  Or is B just a leftover that's
>too common to retire, and authors can and should always avoid it to be
>compliant with the spirit of 4.01 Strict?
Nir Dagan
Assistant Professor of Economics
Brown University 
Providence, RI

Received on Thursday, 20 January 2000 12:01:58 UTC

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