W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > December 2008

Re: <q> omnibus

From: Ben Millard <cerbera@projectcerbera.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 03:07:42 -0000
Message-ID: <BE85906C63EC41DE83966E807392BED0@ben9xr3up2lv7v>
To: "Ian Hickson" <ian@hixie.ch>, "Chris Wilson" <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>
Cc: "HTMLWG" <public-html@w3.org>

Ian Hickson wrote:
> Ben Millard wrote:
>> It seems to me that <q> is made more useful and more implementable
>> by no longer generating punctuation automatically.
> In general I would agree; that's why we had removed punctuation
> generation in HTML5 before. But with IE8 implementing quotes, this
> changes matters.

Not implementing it is the more conservative option for Microsoft, as far as 
I can tell. That's the rendering their users are used to.

If the final IE8 still has it, then I agree we're stuck with this bad 
feature forever. Now is the last chance to remove it.

Ian Hickson wrote:
> We can do the top 40 languages and hit about 99% of the Web, which
> isn't bad.

Given the mututally exclusive conventions within even the major languages, I 
doubt 99% is possible to get right automatically.

In addition, there are funky rules in common use which are between difficult 
and impossible to express in CSS for several widely used languages. As 
documented on-list.

I've heard that 99% of statistics are made up on the spot. ;)

Ian Hickson wrote:
> I'm not convinced that without the quote marks, anyone cares. If they
> did, <q> would probably be in wider use.
> It may be that even with the quote marks, they don't care, but we
> haven't tested that one yet.

I've not counted the numbers so I can't give accurate stats. But I've read 
many books, tutorials and "Introduction to HTML" guides in various media 
which mention <q>.

Summarising the points which were commonplace (IIRC):

* Discouraged due to <q> not doing what they want.
* Discouraged because <q> is a point of low interoperability which cannot be 
worked around. (Lynx 2.8.5 versus IE6, for example.)
* Discouraged because controlling punctuation from CSS is weird (or words to 
that effect).
* Encouraged but requires complicated or unnatural code.
* Encouraged after lots of explanation and reasoning.

The general picture is: the reader is put off from using <q> because it 
seems like more trouble than it's worth. Even standards-aware authors tend 
to avoid it. This prevents the normal copy-and-paste mechanism for spreading 
a technique around the web.

<q> is very rare, even though quoted text is commonplace. In my detailed 
study I found most uses of <q> were wrong (84%):


All these things lead me to one conclusion: automatic quoting on <q> is a 
bad thing.

To be clear: I don't mind whether browsers support the various CSS 
properties for controlling quote marks. But applying them to <q> in the 
default rendering has proved to be a mistake, as I see it. I hope we can 
take this final opportunity to put that mistake right. Once and for all.

Ben 'Cerbera' Millard
Received on Tuesday, 16 December 2008 03:08:46 UTC

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