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Re: HTML Improvement/Suggestion

From: Philip TAYLOR <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2005 00:58:15 +0100
Message-ID: <439CBD17.90008@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
To: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
CC: www-html@w3.org



Mark Birbeck wrote:

[snip]

> I'll explain what I mean. People often say that you only need <div> and
> <span> (and perhaps now we're adding <object>).

[snip]

 > And preference would generally be given to methods of extending
> the language in a fairly orderly and standard way, in any direction that the
> author or a community wants.

I agree with 99.9% of what you say, with two reservations :

1) <div> and <span> aren't sufficient, because I can't nest
    a <div> inside a span.  In practice, I'd want to be able
    to nest two or more divs ionside a single span, in order
    to be able to typeset in columns.

2) AFAIK, there /are/ no "methods of extending the language
    in a fairly orderly and standard way, in any direction
    that the author or a community wants", and this I regard
    as a massive omission.  Those familiar with TeX know that,
    being a macro-based language, one can layer onto the base
    constructs (the small finite set of TeX primitives) as
    many elements of syntactic sugar as one wants.  If HTML
    were extensible in the same way, almost all of this
    recurring debate could be avoided.  But it is not.  HTML is
    handed down from on high, and we lesser mortals can take it
    or leave it.  Most of us are forced to take it, but it
    leaves a sour taste in the mouth knowing how much richer
    the language /could/ be if one could extend it at will
    to cope with the requirements of the task at hand.

    I don't ignore (or even underestimate) the difficulties
    that this poses, but I do so wish that this concept of
    extensibility had been uppermost in mind when HTML was
    first conceived.  And yes, I know one can write a custom
    DTD (I have, on more than one occasion) but without
    a formal requirement that HTML renderers ("browsers")
    be /required/ to honour non-standard DTDs, such an
    approach can be of only very limited use.

Philip Taylor
Received on Sunday, 11 December 2005 23:58:14 GMT

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