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Re: Design Principles

From: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Date: Wed, 27 May 2009 03:21:26 +0200
Message-ID: <4A1C9596.3020201@malform.no>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: Anne van Kesteren <annevk@opera.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Ian Hickson On 09-05-26 20.28:
> On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
>> Ian Hickson On 09-05-26 12.34:
>>> On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
>>>> Ian Hickson On 09-05-26 06.38:
>>>>> On Tue, 26 May 2009, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
>>>>>> Another quote from the same page: "imperative that HTML be 
>>>>>> extended in a backwards-compatible way".
>>>>>> So HTML 4 is winning. And HTML 5 has to be backwards-compatible.
>>>>>> It really sounds from this as if it is very important to be 
>>>>>> compatible with HTML 4.
>>>>> No, being backwards compatible with the HTML4 spec is worthless. 
>>>>> It's being backwards compatible with legacy content and 
>>>>> implementations that matters (and that has been a cornerstone of 
>>>>> the HTML5 effort).
>>>> So it was not the HTML 4 of the spec that was winning but another 
>>>> HTML4?
>>> In the context of the interview, what is the difference between these 
>>> two HTML4s? I don't understand the question.
>> Tell me about that other HTML 4, please. I really wonder how one can say 
>> that HTML 4 is winning and mean that something that isn't in the HTML 4 
>> spec is winning.
> I didn't say the HTML4 _spec_ was winning, I said HTML4 was winning; that 
> is, the HTML language as deployed on the Web (what you would probably call 
> "text/html", but most people wouldn't understand that, so I didn't say 
> that in the interview).

A spec can never win in any other way than through deployment, can it?

To say that "text/html" is winning is not the same as saying that "HTML 
4 deployed" is winning. That HTML 4 is underspecified is one thing. But 
if the deployed HTML cannot in some vague or idealistic manner point to 
HTML 4 as the basis for the way it is implemented, then I cannot see how 
it is is "HTML 4.01 Deployed" we are talking about.

> There is a big difference between "the current official revision of HTML", 
> which is HTML4.x, and "the specification of the current official revision 
> of HTML". It's the same as the difference between "HTML 5 the spec" and 
> "HTML5 the vocabulary and text/html serialisation".

Se above.

> Basing "HTML 5-the-spec" on "HTML4-the-spec" is IMHO an exercise in 
> futility because of the fundamental problems in "HTML4-the-spec" such as 
> its vagueness and near-complete lack of implementation conformance 
> criteria. Thus, "HTML 5-the-spec" and "HTML5-the-vocabulary" and "HTML5- 
> the-serialisation" are all based on "HTML4-the-language-as-implemented- 
> and-deployed-in-legacy-content", which has only a vague relationship to 
> "HTML44-the-spec".

The way you have authored the HTML 5 draft is not the only possible way 
it can/could look. It is entirely possible to build more closely on the 
concepts that are found in HTML 4 while at the same time improving all 
the underspecified sides of HTML 4. So there is more to this than the 
vagueness of HTML 4.

> In fact, it is the vagueness of the relationship between "HTML4-as- 
> deployed", what one might call "reality", and "HTML4-the-spec", what one 
> might call "theory", which is one of the biggest problems that I am trying 
> to fix with HTML5. My goal is that with HTML5 there be no difference 
> between how HTML5 is deployed in implementations and how the spec _says_ 
> it should be deployed in implementations.

When we say "reality" then we usually mean something that /differs/ from 
what theory says about the same reality.  If HTML 4 is silent about 
something, then there is no reality to differ from.

>>>>>> It really sounds as if mentioning HTML 4 should have had close 
>>>>>> to high weight. (Except that the air we are breathing is called 
>>>>>> HTML 4 so we really should have something more unobvious to 
>>>>>> say.)
>>>>>> Perhaps you really meant that the DOM is winning? That 
>>>>>> "text/html" is winning? However, that sounded so boring ...
>>>>> Not sure what you mean. I meant that HTML has a high deployment 
>>>>> rate today (in terms of user agents and content) compared to Flash 
>>>>> and Silverlight, and that the HTML5 work is intended to continue 
>>>>> this trend.
>>>> XHTML is also HTML.
>>> I don't understand what this means
>> The high deployment of HTML that you talk about includes a lot of XHTML.
> As I see it there are two ways to define "XHTML" deployment: Deployment in 
> the sense that documents have an XHTML DOCTYPE, and deployment in the 
> sense that documents actually get processed according to the XHTML 
> specification's rules (e.g. using an XML parser).
Of course.

> Last I checked, about 15% of content had an XHTML DOCTYPE.
> Last I checked, about 0.002% of content was processed as XHTML.
> I don't consider the presence of the DOCTYPE an indicator of deployment in 
> any useful sense. I don't consider 0.002% a high deployment rate.

Those 15% can at least not be counted as "HTML 4 as she are spoke".  
Perhaps we could call it "XHTML treated as HTML 4 are spoke".

>>> or its relevance to either my comments above or the discussion as a 
>>> whole.
>> I just note that one can praise "HTML 4" outside the WG. But when "HTML 
>> 4" is mentioned here, it is used as pretext for dismissing the argument.
> "HTML4-the-deployed-language" is clearly a wild success. If it wasn't, I 
> wouldn't be interested in working on HTML5! There's a huge difference, 
> however, between the language as deployed, and the language as specified. 

So, how shall I consider that you view that "huge" difference? Do you 
mean that the deployed HTML 4 has rules for things that specified HTML 4 
doesn't have? Or do you mean that deployed HTML 4 in practise has 
stricter rules/requirements than specified HTML 4 has? Or do you mean 
that deployed HTML 4 contradicts the specified HTML 4? The language you 
use mostly leads the thoughts to the last option.

> The "HTML4-the-spec" document is the one that is widely criticised. I do 
> not believe that arguments that use "HTML4-the-spec" as a base are 
> generally to be given much weight. I do believe that arguments that use 
> "HTML4-as-deployed" are to be given a lot of weight.

I cannot see how one can talk about deployment without reference to 

> I hope this clarifies the confusion.
leif halvard silli
Received on Wednesday, 27 May 2009 01:22:05 UTC

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