W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > August 2002

Re: The X in HTML

From: Philip TAYLOR [PC87S/O-XP] <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 12:27:30 +0100
Message-ID: <3D58ED22.8D3BA0AE@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
To: www-html@w3.org

Sorry, accidentally sent last message before pasting :
it should have read :


Lachlan Cannon wrote:

> Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the point of the set-up
> being this way is so that
> a) markup tags are well thought out before being implemented -- you'd
> want to have your tags well thought out before modifying the dtd, to
> prevent having to do it again.
> b) everyone and their dog won't go out and make up random, and in a
> lot of cases pointless tags, and overlapping ones with different names.
> Why would you spend 5 hours creating a DTD integrating animalML with
> XHTML when someone else has done it? Re-use of DTDs saves bandwidth
> (assuming they're cached), effort, time, and it means that applications
> don't have to be developed for 1000s of different formats -- one of the
> points of XML is saving the costs of transferring data between different
> incompatible formats.
> A barrier to entry is nearly always a good thing, as long as it's not
> too big. By creating this barrier to entry, documents won't be littered
> with meaningless, or stupid tags (eg <fUnKyT3xT>, <myC00lstuFF>). People
> who are interested enough to learn how to work with are are more likely
> to consider the semantics of a document.
> Again, please correct me if I'm way off here.

I can't say whether you're way off or whether I am way off, and perhaps
neither or both of us are, but ...

Coming from a typesetting-oriented markup background, my experience is
that every document is unique.  For this reason, I eschew LaTeX, use
TeX, and create tags on the fly to reflect the actual structure and
content of the document in-hand, rather than re-using (and abusing)
the rather restricted set of tags which LaTeX would like me to use.
When I come to mark up documents for the web, I find that exactly
the same situation obtains : there are rarely any two documents for
which the same tag set would suffice.  Thus I would like the flexibility
to mark up a web page with an arbitrary set of tags of my choosing, and
I accept that the price to be paid for this is that I should define
a mapping between /my/ tags and a minimal tag set defined as necessary
and sufficient by the W3C.  Since the two sets are clearly not in 1 : 1
relationship, I must additionally use CLASS (and, if necessary, ID and other)
attributes to express the variations between each of my tags that map
to one canonical W3C tag.  And finally I must define a set of presentation 
rules such that the content delimited by my tags is presented in an appropriate
way (which can, of course, be over-ridden by the viewer/reader/listener/...,
should he or she so choose).

Now, if I were defining a tag-set which I knew I would use over and over
again, then there would be some (maybe considerable) merit in also defining
a syntax for that tag set such that a validating browser could detect
if I'd used a tag in an inappropriate context.  But if the tag-set is
essentially use-and-throw-away, then the overheads of defining that 
syntax /far/ outweigh any small advantage that might be otherwise obtain.

And therefore what I am looking for (and maybe proposing, if it does not
already exist) is a means of extending XHTML such that each and every
document can use the set of tags that are relevant to that document,
<stress>whether or not those tags have been pre-defined by the W3C</>,
with a simple, easily understood, syntax for mapping the new tags
to a combination of existing tags and attributes.  Custom DTDs are fine
for those who are making a significant investment in a re-usable tag-set;
something /much/ simpler is, I suggest, what the average document author

Philip Taylor, RHBNC
Received on Tuesday, 13 August 2002 07:30:32 UTC

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