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Re: Is HTML a final form medium like PDF?

From: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 15:28:25 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: public-html@w3.org

Interesting thought piece.

Is the question "Is HTML a final form medium like PDF?" intended to be 

If not, I think the answer is "Only when it is." Or "What is 'Only when it 
is?', Alex."

Seriously though, as I read your email I felt as though it was leading me 
a conclusion, but I never got there. What response were you hoping to provoke?
What am I missing?



At 04:30 PM 3/21/2007 +0000, Dave Raggett wrote:

>On the HTML list, we have talked about the desire to make it easy for all 
>kinds of people to edit web content from children to grandparents. It 
>shouldn't be necessary to know and understand the details of HTML markup 
>and CSS, let alone the DOM and how to write event handlers in JavaScript.
>Smart editing tools can automate the generation of markup, style sheets 
>and scripts, so that authors don't need to know about that level of 
>detail. The problem comes when you want to reload the document and make 
>further changes. If the semantics have been compiled into JavaScript, it 
>is essentially impractical to get them back. This is the problem of how to 
>round trip semantics from the editor to the document and back again.
>If HTML is a final form medium like PDF that is essentially write only, 
>then the solution is to author in a different format and have the machine 
>automatically generate HTML for delivery to web browsers. At this point 
>you might be saying that you have no difficulties with writing scripts and 
>revel in the delights of PHP, ASP and Ruby on Rails, so what is all this 
>nonsense about declarative formats? Well the answser is while that may be 
>fine for you, it restricts the pool of people who can author web content 
>for anything more complex than emails and blog entries to a relatively 
>small clique. It is surely time to democratise web authoring!
>Spreadsheets are attributed as having turned the personal computer from a 
>hobby into a business tool, see [1]. Visicalc was introduced by Dan 
>Bricklin in 1979 and soon followed by Lotus 1-2-3 and later yet by 
>Microsoft Excel. Visicalc was one of the first "killer apps" that drove 
>people to buy computers to be able to run it. The Web has yet to offer 
>anything like the simplicity with which anyone can create a spreadsheet 
>with some text and a few formualae, without any knowledge of programming. 
>It is time to fix that!
>Web Forms 2.0 provides incremental extensions to HTML4 forms, such as the 
>ability to specify simple data types for numbers, dates and times, as well 
>as the means to state min and max values, or to constrain entered text to 
>match regular expressions. This is good!
>What it currently lacks is the means to state simple formulae for 
>calculated fields, and the means to state simple constraints such as this 
>field must be greater than the value of that field, or that this field 
>must be filled out under such and such conditions, or that this group of 
>fields is relevant and should be shown when a given field has a particular 
>These can all be stated using simple JavaScript expressions. You can see a 
>range of such examples at [2]. The equivalent WF2 examples are at [3]
>[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spreadsheet
>[2] http://www.w3.org/2007/03/XForms-Transitional/#examples
>[3] http://www.w3.org/2007/03/WF2/
>Web Forms 2.0 isn't cast in concrete, and it is time to look at how HTML 
>Forms can take advantage of simple spreadsheet like expressions. Yes there 
>are some details in Web Forms 2.0 that might need to change, but 
>democratising web authoring is well worth it.
>I have shown that it can be made to work on pretty much all modern web 
>browsers, so the technical problems are definitely do able. If you have a 
>technical question, I will do my best to answer it.
>For people who hear the word declarative and reach for their AK-47, think 
>of expressions as a way of writing event handlers that that even your mom 
>will get.
>p.s. if HTML is condemned to be a final form medium, it isn't the end of 
>the world as there are standards based XML formats that work just fine and 
>lots of experience at hand in automatically adapting the content to 
>particular devices. But do we want to give up on HTML that easily!
>  Dave Raggett <dsr@w3.org> http://www.w3.org/People/Raggett
Received on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 19:28:47 UTC

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