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Re: [XHTML2] DESCRIPTION element

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 14:58:11 +0300 (EEST)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.58.0407281440240.2743@korppi.cs.tut.fi>

On Wed, 28 Jul 2004, Anne van Kesteren wrote:

> I still think there is a small difference between the TITLE attribute
> and element and therefore, there should be a difference between the
> TITLE element and the "TITLE attribute element replacement". The TITLE
> attribute is intended for giving a description of the element's contents
> or behavior. Like:

This might correspond to the actual use of TITLE attributes - they are
seen as "tooltips", which can be used for giving mixed hints and notes.
But this does correspond well to the defined (though vaguely defined)
original meaning 'advisory title'. The XHTML 2.0 draft increases the
vagueness by saying, in the attribute summary table, "Set the title of an
element", but then switches to tooltip thinking: "This attribute offers
advisory information about the element for which it is set."

Semantically, there's a fundamental difference between being a title for
something and offering advisory information about something. Sometimes the
difference reduces to something fairly small in practice, e.g.

>   <a href="http://www.google.com/"
>      rel="search"
>      title="Google is the world largest search engine"
>   >Google</a>

would match my idea of "advisory title" if it had
title="Google, the world's largest search engine"
But...

>   <a href="http://example.com/example">
>      title="This is an external link"
>   >Examples</a>

... is understandable in tooltip thinking, not as a title, especially not
as a title for the linked resource (the most natural interpretation,
dating back to the fairly descriptive formulations of the meaning of the
TITLE attribute in an A element in the HTML 2.0 specification).

> Therefore, introducing DESCRIPTION might make sense.

Or NOTE, or even TOOLTIP - if we define an attribute, or an element for
that matter, that is _really_ meant to be used for mixed purposes in a
tooltip fashion, why not name it accordingly? I think it's time to stop
having elements or attributes that are nominally defined as structural and
semantic concepts but really meant to be used for whatever authors find it
suitable _given the way they are actually implemented_ in common browsers.
(Think about <dl>, or the feeble protests against extremely common abuse
of <blockquote>.)

Something like note="This is an external link" could make perfect sense
(at least in the absence of markup for saying the same thing in formalized
manner). But it should not be confused with an advisory title, which
should describe an element, or the link destination, as a whole, instead
of just making some special note about it.

-- 
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Wednesday, 28 July 2004 07:58:16 GMT

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