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Re: Concerns about the "l" element name <l>

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2004 10:50:46 +0200 (EET)
To: HTML List <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.58.0411021036470.7268@korppi.cs.tut.fi>

On Tue, 2 Nov 2004, Lachlan Hunt wrote:

> That's why the XHTML 2 draft states [1]
>
> # An a element defines an anchor. Since hypertext attributes such as
> # href may be applied to any element, this element is not strictly
> # necessary, being equivalent to a span, but has been retained to allow
> # the expression of explicit links.

Such an idea results typically from a theoretical analysis that aims at
simplicility and orthogonality and whatever. So I could well have invented
it myself, but since I didn't, I can see that it's all wrong.

What happened to the usability and accessibility principle that
a link text should be short and concise, yet informative, and work
reasonably out-of-context too, e.g. in a list of all links? What will e.g.
speech browsers do in links reading mode when a link is five paragraphs or
a hundred-lines table or something really big?

Hypertext should be more than text, not less. A link should be a word,
abbreviation, or a short phrase, often name-like (such as the title of the
linked resource). Restricting it to text level content and using specific
markup element for a link is _good_. Allowing anything to be a link is
_not_ progress; quite the contrary.

If XHTML 2 will intentionally break any compatibility with old versions of
HTML, it could just as well have a logical name for a linking element,
such as... let me think... <link>? Or maybe <ref>

> I personally don't think that's a very good reason to keep it, but there
> is little harm in doing so.

Except continued confusion, of course. But we might ask whether it's
really the <span> element that is redundant.

Actually some people have figured out that in practical HTML authoring at
present, you can use <a> (without href or name attributes) instead of
<span>. If you later decide to make it a link, you can just add the href
attribute. Consider a typical case: adding markup just to carry an
attribute, like <a lang="fi">Jukka K. Korpela</a>. Works just as fine as
<span>. And if you like, you can then simply add a href attribute without
changing the element's name. (If you do this, you need to be careful about
But that's a good principle anyway.)

The word "span" doesn't really mean anything. The string "a" would be just
as understandable, wouldn't it?

-- 
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Tuesday, 2 November 2004 08:51:21 GMT

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