W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > September 2009

Re: what is dt?

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 21:39:10 -0700
Cc: Smylers@stripey.com, public-html@w3.org
Message-id: <22393B2E-6B7C-43C0-95EC-5A7EF7810A5D@apple.com>
To: Shelley Powers <shelleyp@burningbird.net>

Hi Shelley,

On Sep 16, 2009, at 9:17 PM, Shelley Powers wrote:

> We keep referencing the importance of semantics, but most of the  
> considerations about elements to use for Figure and Details have  
> been based on some physical characteristic or behavior. Physical  
> characteristics and behaviors, I should add, that came about because  
> of earlier, non-compatible semantics.

That's exactly right - the other plausible existing elements are ruled  
out because of their pre-existing use and behavior. I don't have a  
strong opinion on <dt> vs. a new element - as far as I'm concerned,  
either is acceptable. All I wanted to do is clarify why <caption>,  
<label>, or other similar elements, are not an option for technical  
reasons that go beyond aesthetics.

I think you're making the case below that for reasons of taste and  
language design, dt/dd is not a good choice, perhaps worse than making  
up a new element. Would that be a fair assessment of your viewpoint?  
Do you think there would be downsides to creating one or more new  
elements for <figure> and <details>?

> What has happened is that we've sifted through the various elements  
> and found the ones that don't have any browser behavior attached  
> that would make them incompatible. We then attach semantics that  
> changes based on container, formatting that will have to change  
> based on container, and even occurrence that will change based on  
> container.
> Where now, there is no real conflict about how dt/dd is used within  
> the dl element, we've introduced confusion. A very significant  
> confusion.
> The use of dl/dt/dd is no longer encouraged for dialogues, because  
> we've heard, there is no inherent order to the dt/dd elements in a  
> definition list. Yet we've made rules that there can be many dt/dd  
> pairs in a dl container, but only one pair in a Figure, and I'm not  
> quite sure how they work in Details yet. The first is a dt, the last  
> child a dd, and I guess we can assume there is the possibility of  
> millions of pairs in between. Which really confuses the heck out of  
> what Details is.

One side note: multiple <dt>/<dd> pairs inside <figure> or <details>  
create the same kinds of issues as multiple <legend>s would have under  
the older approach. Either way, multiple labels are disallowed, but  
UAs must somehow cope. The only new issue is the comparison to <dl>.

> But I digress. The way dt and dd is defined for use in Details, is  
> because there can be many dts in a row in a definition list BUT,  
> such behavior is not allowed in Details or Figure...
> These "rules" will co-exist on the web with ten years of using dt/dd  
> and dl for dialogue, now considered a "bad" use of dl, because of  
> that aforementioned inherent lack order to dt/dd pairs within a  
> definition list. Interesting, too, that such a restriction on the  
> use of dt/dd pairs is enough to filter their use in dialogues, but a  
> similar restriction is seemingly not enough to filter their use in  
> Figure and Details.
> Yet another paradox for such short, confused little elements.
> Yes, I think that, among our other concerns, we can also include a  
> concern about the mnemonics of dt/dd in Figure.
> Shelley
Received on Thursday, 17 September 2009 04:39:55 UTC

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