W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > February 1998

Re: Transition (was Re: Capitalize across "span")

From: Chris Lilley <chris@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 09 Feb 1998 22:21:54 +0100
Message-ID: <34DF7372.5E280590@w3.org>
To: Todd Fahrner <fahrner@pobox.com>
CC: Matthew Lye <mlye@trentu.ca>, W3C style list <www-style@w3.org>

Todd Fahrner wrote:

>  I don't think we're really in disagreement here. You make
> quiet efforts (such as in mailing lists and other SIGs) to help
> implementors get it right, meanwhile striving not to publicize certain
> gross deficiencies in ways likely to stoke user revolt and bad press. I'll
> think otherwise when you swap in this version:
> http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Test/w3c.html
> That'd certainly set the henhouse acackle, eh?

Ah yes, the version of the W3C home page that uses CSS2 positioning and which,
although valid, looks like a train wreck in most current browsers. I expect we
will move to that version shortly after the Verso site


drops the tables and images of text in favour of positioning, float, anfd

> I hardly blame you for not
> doing this, but it does make me wonder whether HTML 4.0's "transitional"
> period won't, in fact, become a destination,

This is certainly a worry. However, there are a wide range of possible
transitional documents. Some are fine, they have structure, they have CSS, they
have the off presentational attribute like a bgcolor on body or amn
align=center on the H1. No real problem. Others, and I am seeinbg a worrying
number of these auto-generated, are completely bogus (but valid) -  containing
nothing but tables (to simulate margins) font tags (to simulate headings) and
br (to simulate vertical whitespace).

> particularly in view of the
> fact that XML is the first sort of Web-ready markup that key constituencies
> are embracing as a worthy document source format.

Are they? I don't see much in the way of XML documents (I mean real documents,
not data) on the Web, probably because no-one seems to have taken advantage of
the greater simplicity of XML (no zillions of lines of carefully
reverse-engineered bugwards compatibiity hacks) and a CSS engine to produce a
real XML browser or browser component.

> If XML is source, then
> HTML is output: display. Why bother trying to preserve structure and
> semantics in a display format?

That depends on whether the conversion happens client side and
user-transparent, or server-side and user-disempowering.

> These are rhetorical questions and assertions, but I suspect they're not
> too far off the mark in many minds. While W3C promotes CSS for the greater
> glory of HTML as a portable (smart) source format, leading implementors
> seem interested only in those bits that will make HTML more tractable as a
> "WYSIWYG" display format, limited to today's typical browsing paradigm
> (maximize and scroll) and possibly also today's typical printers (US
> letter, A4).

Also a worry, although looking further afield than the US shows other
implementors interested in a greater diversity of devices (particularly small
and portable devices, and other consumer electronics).

> I suspect that at least some CSS implementation omissions are strategic,
> notably complete support for the "display type" property. With support for
> this property, together with "float", HTML and its renderings wouldn't be
> joined at the hip as they are now, and the "HTML/CSS flow objects" of MS's
> XSL implementation would be nonsensical.

In the sense that  XML documents could be displayed by existing CSS
implementations with minimal work from the vendors, I agree. But also, people
are starting to notice a benefit of HTML, limited though it is: semantics. The
semantics of <input type=image name=foo src="url"> can be assumed; the
semantics of <mytag type=image name=foo src="url"> cannot be assumed nor can
they handily be described. Which is why I am coming to the conclusion that the
next thing 'flow objects' need are 'flow methods'.

> I think MS perceives self-interest
> in keeping HTML and CSS relatively dumb: they're moving faster to provide
> smarter solutions that they will effectively own, at least to today's "fat
> middle" - the 800x600 Windows desktop. As for alternate renderings, even
> for those environments in which it has a stake (WebTV, CE, car browsers,
> etc.) - there'll be enough cash to buy those bridges when they get to them.
> A little redundancy means more chimps have steady work, right?

I will leave MS (and any other vendors implicitly tarred with the same brush)
to reply to that one themselves.

Received on Monday, 9 February 1998 16:22:33 UTC

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