W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > September 2002

Re: One more time: Words have meaning

From: Elliotte Rusty Harold <elharo@metalab.unc.edu>
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 18:06:36 -0400
Message-Id: <p04330103b9998f4365ee@[]>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>

At 6:58 PM +0000 9/2/02, Ian Hickson wrote:

>And therein lies the problem. Accesssibility is not about UAs _guessing_
>about what the author intended. It's about the author conveying _exactly_
>what he meant so that there is no ambiguity.

Again, you're falling into the binary trap. The UA *never* knows 
*exactly* what the author meant and it never will. The UA *always* 
guesses. Even in HTML, when the UA sees a P element it is only 
guessing that the user meant for that to be paragraph. Authors can 
and do use P elements (and pretty much all the other elements in 
HTML) for very different purposes.

Then issue is how good and useful can that guess be and how accurate 
we can make it. Your approach seems to be to limit everyone to just a 
few dozen tags so that browsers can guess more reliably. I understand 
your point, but this is completely contrary to the spirit of XML, 
which is to let thousands of tags bloom, and allow various local 
process to apply the semantics to them that make sense in their 
environment, using whatever information they have available to decide 
how to best manipulate them. The limited domain of browser 
presentation (only one of the things that may usefully be done with a 
web page) is reasonably provided for by CSS and XSLT.

You seem to be arguing for dictatorial control of both tags and their 
meanings, and that is indeed the HTML way. XML, however, is anarchic 
at heart. No requirements beyond well-formedness. Everything else is 
optional and locally interpretable.  This is a very useful model, and 
I am not willing to abandon it because some people believe there is 
only one true path to accessibility, and that this path requires 
dictatorial control of tag sets.

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@metalab.unc.edu | Writer/Programmer |
|          XML in a  Nutshell, 2nd Edition (O'Reilly, 2002)          |
|              http://www.cafeconleche.org/books/xian2/              |
|  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN%3D0596002920/cafeaulaitA/  |
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Received on Monday, 2 September 2002 21:19:26 UTC

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