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Re: OBJECT (was Re: So, what's left?)

From: Murray Altheim <altheim@eng.sun.com>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 11:44:54 -0800
Message-ID: <3895E636.FAE044E3@eng.sun.com>
CC: www-html@w3.org
Jonny Axelsson wrote:
> Murray Altheim <altheim@eng.sun.com> Mon, 24 Jan 2000 11:38:12 -0800 replied:
> "As I've tried to explain, XHTML 1.1 currently has <applet> (if you read the
> draft you'll see it staring back at you) and we'll be discussing in our F2F
> meeting this week what to do with <object> (which currently isn't in the 1.1
> DTD but my guess is that it will be). The problems with <object> are legion,
> and we're actually collecting requirements for a redesign. Perhaps <applet>
> will go away if its functionality is included in <object>, perhaps we'll
> break <object> up into several pieces (since it really does three or four
> things), who knows?"
> I don't want to repeat a discussion that probably has been going on
> somewhere, so if you had a pointer to what those <object> problems really
> are, I would appreciate it.

Last week the HTML WG decided to include <object> in XHTML 1.1. We are
currently developing a requirements document with the idea that it will
likely be completely reengineered for XHTML 2.0.

Unfortunately, I don't have at this point time to enumerate specific 
problems. The gist is that there are 36 attributes, used in various
combinations to support a number of different uses of <object>. In addition
to the attributes in the HTML 4.0 Specification, there are *many* other
unofficial attributes used to support various other media types (apparently
Apple has added around 30 to support QuickTime, although I've not 
substantiated this myself).
> From the point of a web and system designer, it may well be the best
> element W3C ever invented. It is simple, flexible, powerful and extendible.
> (*) It is simple to understand, "if you want to include something from a
> foreign source, use OBJECT", or even "If you want to include an object
> (image, applet, sound, whatever), use OBJECT"

It is not simple, but quite complex, as would be any element type that
included 36 attributes (many of which are overloaded with various 
interpretations depending on media type). Merely documenting all the 
various uses is itself not trivial. 

> (*) It is simple to implement, given a capabilities list. When you
> encounter an object, if its media type is in the capabilities list, it and
> the parametres are given to that process, otherwise you strip it and any
> parametres and continue.

I don't see any reason to believe anything with an underspecified,
complex interaction of contextually variant attributes could be 
anything but difficult to implement. The fact that two years have
passed and nobody has been able to implement it fully should tell
you something. At the HTML WG meeting we actually had an announcement
from a company that claims to *finally* have a complete implementation
of <object>. While I have my doubts about what that really means, 
it should be clear that unless software is magically developed, it
is not simple. Magic only appears simple to those watching it.

> (*) It is simple to remove. This is important in practice. Just give
> yourself a capabilities list of NONE.

Well, most things are pretty simple to remove.

> (*) It is of course easy to extend, and in a way that doesn't add
> complexity of the UA. If the new object is on the capabilities list, fine.
> If it isn't, next.

It is not extensible, in that a number of media types added proprietary
attributes to supply information not permitted in <object>, such as timing
or other display information. The only way to extend it is to add 
proprietary markup. 

> (*) And it degrades beautifully.

As for degrading "beautifully", I find your description rather curious. 
While it is really to early to predict, we are currently looking at 
something more akin to SMIL's <switch> element, which would allow 
multiple levels of degradation depending on both author and user 
choice. Unfortunately, the <switch> element is itself quite complex,
so it's hard to say what will happen. I certainly don't consider 
<object>'s simple alternate content particularly beautiful.

For XHTML 1.1, <object> will be included. As for XHTML 2.0, there is
currently nothing but our current requirements process; no resolution
on its features or syntax is possible at this time. 


Murray Altheim, SGML Grease Monkey         <mailto:altheim&#64;eng.sun.com>
Member of Technical Staff, Tools Development & Support
Sun Microsystems, 901 San Antonio Rd., UMPK17-102, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4900

   the honey bee is sad and cross and wicked as a weasel
   and when she perches on you boss she leaves a little measle -- archy
Received on Monday, 31 January 2000 14:43:42 UTC

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