W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > December 2005

Re: HTML Improvement/Suggestion

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2005 22:25:38 +0000 (GMT)
Message-Id: <200512122225.jBCMPcP13635@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: www-html@w3.org

> > That's abusing HTML as a page description language.
> 
> I really don't understand that assertion.  Why should
> a page description language be predicated on a single

HTML is not a page description language.  That's why you
are abusing it by trying to make it act as one.

> column model and force users to use floated elements in
> order to achieve multi-column layouts ?  Surely the poorly-
> supported "display:inline-block" model is tacit recognition
> that HTML and early CSS were deficient in this very area ?

That is almost nothing to do with HTML.  The only impact that HTML
really has on the matter is that it doesn't have a way of marking up an
orthogonal structure for presentation purposes (similar, but opposite
in concept to the alternative HTML structure that tagged PDF allows),
so it is difficult to hint at things like where to make column breaks.

PDF has the advantage here in that the physical structure is tightly 
defined.  SVG is a tightly defined presentational XML dialect (but 
unfortunately lacks any real structual overlay).

> 
> > That's why XML is called *X*.  You can define additional elements, as
> > long as you maintain the well-formedness (which exists to support this,
> > not to avoid confusing people with implicit tags).  You can use namespaces
> > to avoid conflicts.
> 
> Yes, of course I can author in XML : but if I do so,
> I cannot serve the resulting documents across the
> web with more than the faintest hope that anyone will

I believe the chance approximate to 100 - IE % market share.  However, that
is irrelevant for this list.  This list is about the future and only takes
account of current implementation defects to the extent that they may indicate
fundamental problems, rather than marketing priorities.

> be able to render them.  (X)HTML is the /lingua franca/
> of the web, but it is closed (inextensible); what I am
> arguing is that the /lingua franca/ needs to be extensible,
> not that one should be forced to abandon it simply in order
> to gain access to a richer extensible tag set.

XHTML is extensible.  It's seems likely that browsers will suppport
XML namespaces before they support completely new features.

> Exactly as was TeX : yet Knuth had the foresight to realise
> that no closed finite set of tags could ever satisfy the
> needs of "any intelligent person" so he deliberately made
> the language extensible; the author(s)/creator(s) of HTML
> seem totally unaware of this fundamental need for extensibility.

Which is why XHTML is XML, and therefore extensible.  The creators of 
HTML were aware of the need for simplicity; unfortunately the market
took over and made it complicated.  The macro facilities in TeX and
nroff are certainly going to be too difficult for people who can't even
cope with nested structures.

In any case, Knuth was a mathematician and computer science, not a 
librarian or secretary (or even advertising executive) and TeX is 
a significantly more presentational language than HTML.  I'm more 
familiar with nroff, though, and for nroff, the macros are akin to 
style sheets and the base language is more of a styling language.
Received on Monday, 12 December 2005 22:37:25 GMT

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