W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2007

RE: Version information

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2007 02:37:06 +0000 (UTC)
To: Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>
Cc: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0704090214500.5889@dhalsim.dreamhost.com>

On Sun, 8 Apr 2007, Chris Wilson wrote:
> [...] an additional version number won't hurt you.

I listed a significant number of ways in which a version number (or even a 
non-standard opt-in mechanism) would harm the Web in:


David Baron also wrote an essay on the subject:


Frankly I find the entire concept of writing software in a way that 
assumes that at some future point you will stop fixing bugs and instead 
freeze the codebase and begin a new codebase to be quite shocking.

The idea that if someone wrote a basic HTML page without going out of 
their way to specify a version would result in a page that relied not on 
standards-compliant behaviour but instead on an undocumented, unspecified, 
frozen set of bugs, is frightening. I honestly can't think of a better way 
to sustain a monopoly, or to create make-work for competitors, though I 
doubt that is your intent.

> Actually, quirks mode is based on a version number.

No, it isn't. This:

   <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">

...triggers quirks mode, while this:

   <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" 

...triggers standards mode. Same version number.

The standards mode vs quirks mode (vs, in browsers that correctly support 
the CSS inline box model, almost standards mode) switch is based on a 
heuristic that was intended to distinguish legacy documents from those 
that were created after browser vendors recommitted to following 
standards. The mode was introduced way after HTML4 was released.

> It simply isn't realistic to think that this will be the last version of 
> HTML that will ever change behavior or deprecate anything, in my 
> opinion.

In my opinion, we cannot afford to _change_ behaviour, nor can we afford 
to remove features from browsers once they are used. While we can make 
features obsolete for authors (e.g. <center>), browsers will have to 
support them forever (and the specs will have to define what they do 
forever). I don't see this as a problem.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Monday, 9 April 2007 02:37:13 UTC

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