W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > March 2000

Specificity of HTML

From: Matthew Brealey <thelawnet@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2000 10:22:47 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <20000303182247.17361.qmail@web906.mail.yahoo.com>
To: www-style@w3.org
<blockquote cite="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2cascade.html#q12">
6.4.4 Precedence of non-CSS presentational hints
The UA may choose to honor presentational hints from other sources than
style sheets, for example the FONT element or the "align" attribute in
HTML. If so, the non-CSS presentational hints must be translated to the
corresponding CSS rules with specificity equal to zero. The rules are
assumed to be at the start of the author style sheet and may be overridden
by subsequent style sheet rules.

This is badly and dangerously wrong.

The issue is not 'presentational hints' but presentational _attributes_.
It is not 'for example the FONT element or the "align" attribute', but the
attributes of FONT and the "align" attribute. The suggestion that FONT be
mapped to CSS with specificity of 0 makes no sense at all.

The reason that this is wrong is because it is not possible to map
elements to CSS at all because of the way that value assignment works:

1. If the cascade results in a value, use it.
2. Otherwise, if the property is inherited, use the value of the parent
element, generally the computed value.
3. Otherwise use the property's initial value. The initial value of each
property is indicated in the property's definition.

So for the code fragment <P>An element with <font color=red>red</font>, we
should have {color: red} with zero specificity, and since there aren't (we
assume) any other assignments that apply to FONT, the result is red text.
If we wanted to override that we could have FONT {color: inherit /* or any
other colour */}. But what the spec says, which is that the FONT _element_
should somehow be converted into CSS with specificity of zero doesn't work
- it is not possible (because the cascade is used before inheritance, so
to do give elements themselves specificity removes this important
distinction) to give elements specificity, only the attributes of those

Unfortunately this error has already broken one browser (WebTV, which does
precisely what this paragraph suggests, and so when you specify BODY
{color: black}, because the FONT _element_ is given specificity of zero,
<FONT color="xxx"> will be ignored), so I think it imperative that this be
fixed before it breaks any more.

From Matthew Brealey (http://members.tripod.co.uk/lawnet (for law)or http://members.tripod.co.uk/lawnet/WEBFRAME.HTM (for CSS))
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Received on Friday, 3 March 2000 13:15:58 UTC

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