Re: Thoughts on a new charter for HTML


	Good to hear from you, after the MSXML mysteries...

At 04:17 PM 5/20/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Daniel B. Austin wrote (4:00 PM -0700 5/18/98):
>" Overarching concepts of this proposal:
>" * using the right tool for the right job (HTML for layout, CSS for style,
>" acronymML for authoring...)
>I can't see any distinction between layout and style - never have. I think
>HTML is a hopelessly poor basis for anything related to rendering. That's
>the mess we're in: HTML, with a ton of prayer, imagination, and patience,
>has been made barely good enough for Web display in the absence of any
>better alternative (or competing browser), and now too many people have
>decided that it's actually sensible. <sarcasm>Look: it "works".
>Frankenstein *can* dance. Look out Excel! Edward Tufte, David Carson:
>behold your new working quarters!</sarcasm>

	Sectioning and layout are somewhat different than text level style IMHO,
for instance,
the most common abuse of tables on the web is to produce columnar format
(not for floats!)
and it is difficult to see how this could be done effectively in CSS or
something similar. 
Tags that divide the document into sensible parts for layout (and for the
application of 
style) are better left in HTML; if we take *everything* out of HTML, then
we are stuck
supporting 2 very difficult languages for even small devices like cell
phones (HTML+CSS).
We need to balance the need for seperation with the need for simplicity.

>But supposing I were to agree with you that HTML has a place in the
>formatting equation: I think you've got it backwards. I assume that by

>"style" you mean phrasal, text-level style, like bolding. This stuff is
>usually tied to tag boundaries (e.g., <strong>), so inlining it (e.g., <b>)
>makes limited sense. But layout - whitespace, columnar arrangement,
>placement and scaling of figures - this stuff is properly independent of
>tag boundaries. All browsers execute some aspects of layout (like line
>wrapping and letter spacing) today without the need for inline cues. This
>stuff, IMO, is best handled by stylesheet languages which can be
>parameterized with rendering environment variables.

	I agree that all text-level formatting should be removed from HTML
(eg <B> etc). I said this in my paper presented at the conference; But we can't leave 
layout up to the browser vendors: this is what we are doing now, and
it is a total disaster - not even a simple DIV acts the same in both.
Should these things be independent of tag boundaries? I don't think so.
This does not allow us to support intelligent internal organization of 
the document.

>People are going to keep using "anything goes" HTML for display purposes
>for a long time. I don't believe this application is perfectible, nor even
>worth trying to improve. It's hamburger already: no amount of chewing will
>render it any more healthful. The effort should go into improving the
>design and implementation of style languages.

	Currently most sites don't use CSS. It isn't cost effective, it is
difficult to learn,
can't be checked, and only works haphazardly...even the, in your own words, 
'least-broken implementation', is pretty bad.
Moving all the problems to CSS from HTML doesn't solve anything.

>What is worth trying to create, IMO, is a markup language for
>general-purpose structured hypertext. HTML 4.0 Strict is not bad, though
>its SGML (rather than XML) profile makes it hard to support as designed,
>particularly in view of HTML's current use as a hand-hacked display format,
>which effectively forbids real parsing. (Already some "web designers" are
>using HTML 4.0 Strict doctypes, thinking this will somehow provide better
>pixel control in "4.0" browsers.)

	Um...this is more or less the path I proposed here, with some solutions
that attempt
to fix the problems you mention, which are indeed hacks and result in rapid
hair loss
for those poor souls who hand author their code (like nearly everyone who
writes HTML).

	I'm not sure of the use of the term 'profile' here, I think you mean to
use it in the loose sense.
(In the technical terminology, HTML is an SGML 'application' not a
'profile' - an important distinction.
I proposed in a previous email that it be made a profile - of XML.)

Does any user agent actually pay any attention at all to DOCTYPE?

	HTML should be generated only by machinery, for machinery. Humans have no
business writing HTML.



Received on Wednesday, 20 May 1998 19:42:40 UTC