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Re: br element should be eliminated

From: Liorean <Liorean@user.bip.net>
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 22:18:42 +0200
Message-Id: <5.1.0.14.0.20020923193307.02ba7ce8@pop3.bip.net>
To: www-html@w3.org

At 10:45 2002-09-23 -0400, Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:
>The line element in XHTML 2.0 is a good thing. It removes one of the last 
>presentational elements in HTML.
>However, as long as XHTML 2.0 is breaking backwards compatibility by 
>eliminating img, rewriting frames, and more; I see no reason to keep br. I 
>suggest throwing it out completely. That can only simplify the spec and 
>implementations.

I would argue the other way here. A newline is in a very real sense part of 
a text, not the presentation thereof. Most flowing text (read text that is 
automatically wrapped, e.g. text/plain format sent using format=flowed) 
uses the newline to signify the end of a paragraph, and at the same time 
the beginning of the next. That's not presentational, it's structural. Only 
in a fixed text (text that is manually wrapped) does the newline signify a 
purely presentational aspect - the end of a line and beginning of a new one.

Since html uses flowing text format more often than not - pre tag or css 
white-space: pre|nowrap being the exceptions - I would say that the br tag 
is just that: a paragraph ending. On the other hand p - supposedly the 
paragraph element - is more often used as a section/verse delimiter.

(This depends a bit on how you interpret the definition of a paragraph. 
Most interpret it as a context setting, while others call that a 
sub-paragraph which is part of the greater paragraph. Since 'context 
setting' can also be interpreted a bit differently between individuals the 
entire thing can get a bit blurry. In general, a context setting refers to 
one or a few sentences which generally refer to the same subject(s) or 
object(s). It can also refer to a number of sentences following in strict 
chronological order. But enough about that now.)




An example follows:

<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed diam 
nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed 
diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. 
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor 
sit amet.<br>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed 
diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, 
sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. 
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor 
sit amet.<br>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed 
diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, 
sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. 
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor 
sit amet.</p>
<p>Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse 
molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero 
eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum 
zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.<br>   Lorem 
ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh 
euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.</p>

This example would (with the formatting common in most novels and other 
long texts) format like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed diam nonumy 
eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam 
voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet 
clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.
     Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed diam 
nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed 
diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. 
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor 
sit amet.
     Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr,  sed diam 
nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed 
diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. 
Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor 
sit amet.

Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse 
molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero 
eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum 
zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.
     Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam 
nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.


(Let's now hope that formats correctly in the email)

The actual length of the lines might vary but the br always gives the 
effect that the current sentence is NOT followed directly by the following 
sentence, but separated from it. This is because the br is the equivalent 
of the newline - it defines the end of a context setting and the beginning 
of the next. It's structural in the point that is signifies an end of text 
which relates closely to the same thing. It is also content in the meaning 
that it IS the end point of a context setting.

Now, the line element in effect does the same thing another way. It defines 
a context setting, and does see to that the setting begins on a new line 
and ends with an end of line.




Now, a short breakdown of what positive and negative sides I see in the two 
tag types:

br:
+ Space efficient
+ Simple
+ Corresponds more to the pure text syntactical system, allowing easier 
translation to and from pure text (also related to second negative)
- Is hard to style
- Is hard to define what semantic category it belongs in (should really be 
an entity if I had it my way)
- Is frequently being abused (it's used to create new lines, not separate 
paragraphs)
- Does not give you the possibility to style each context setting

line:
+ Is easy to style
+ Is easy to define what semantic category it belongs to
+ Gives you the possibility to style each context setting
- Corresponds more to the html syntactical system, making translation to 
and from pure text harder (also related to second positive)
- Is easy to abuse (e.g. <line /> which also provides some parsing, as well 
as rendering, issues)
- Space inefficient
- Complex


In general, as a writer, I'd prefer the br.
As a designer, I'd prefer line.

// Liorean, expecting to be flamed to hell for that post
Received on Monday, 23 September 2002 16:19:48 GMT

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