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Re: Questions on the Origin of BLOCKQUOTE

From: David Woolley <forums@david-woolley.me.uk>
Date: Sat, 02 May 2009 18:52:18 +0100
Message-ID: <49FC8852.6090206@david-woolley.me.uk>
To: www-html <www-html@w3.org>
Sean B. Palmer wrote:

> Indentation was perhaps not available using any other element, but <I>
> and <EM> were added to html.dtd v.1.2 along with BLOCKQUOTE, so those
> at least could have been used instead for one of the suggested
> renderings. The meaning of the element and the diversity of possible
> stylings seems quite likely to have been important at that stage.

I don't believe it was ever the original intent of HTML that it should 
dictate a presentation, so BLOCKQUOTE is actually much more consistent 
with the HTML philosophy than I or B.  HTML was supposed to be a 
universal information language, not a universal page description language.

> This original prominent approach to element design seems to have
> fallen by the wayside due to consensus of styling amongst user agents
> narrowing the diversity with which an element is styled. So with

Essentially, the market wanted something for writing advertising copy, 
i.e. it was the market for PDF, not for HTML.  As such there was 
pressure on browsers to provide consistent rendering, and, in turn, a 
tendency to use elements based on their rendering, rather than their 
meaning.  CSS is an attempt to free HTML from that misuse by giving 
sufficient power to control rendering that you can use HTML that 
reflects meaning and still achieve a particular rendering.

> BLOCKQUOTE, it came to be associated in authors' minds with
> indentation rather than its meaning as an extended quotation: by HTML
> 4.01, there is a warning in the specification that people are using it
> merely for indentational formatting with non-quotation semantics.

As I say, that is because commercial authors (and vanity authors) didn't 
really buy the HTML philosophy and wanted a page description language. 
The world may have been very different if Adobe had provided free basic 
authoring tools, and internet capabilities, for PDF, before Mosaic got a 

David Woolley
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Received on Saturday, 2 May 2009 17:53:04 UTC

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