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[Bug 19054] New: The footer element (Sections, Elements of HTML). Request for clarification. Re: Interaction of <blockquote> with the prohibition on nested <footer>s. "When the footer element contains entire sections, they represent appendices, indexes, long colophons, ve

From: <bugzilla@jessica.w3.org>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2012 22:01:11 +0000
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <bug-19054-2495@http.www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/>

           Summary: The footer element (Sections, Elements of HTML).
                    Request for clarification. Re: Interaction of
                    <blockquote> with the prohibition on nested <footer>s.
                    "When the footer element contains entire sections,
                    they represent appendices, indexes, long colophons, ve
           Product: HTML WG
           Version: unspecified
          Platform: Other
               URL: http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#top
        OS/Version: other
            Status: NEW
          Keywords: a11y
          Severity: normal
          Priority: P3
         Component: HTML5 spec
        AssignedTo: dave.null@w3.org
        ReportedBy: contributor@whatwg.org
         QAContact: public-html-bugzilla@w3.org
                CC: ian@hixie.ch, hsivonen@iki.fi, mike@w3.org,

This was was cloned from bug 12990 as part of operation LATER convergence.
Originally filed: 2011-06-19 09:46:00 +0000

 #0   contributor@whatwg.org                          2011-06-19 09:46:44 +0000 
Specification: http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/
Multipage: http://www.whatwg.org/C#top
Complete: http://www.whatwg.org/c#top

The footer element (Sections, Elements of HTML).

Request for clarification.

Re: Interaction of <blockquote> with the prohibition on nested <footer>s.

"When the footer element contains entire sections, they represent appendices,
indexes, long colophons, verbose license agreements, and other such content."

But I expect appendices or similar would often include <blockquote>s (or just
a plain <article>) which would want to include a <footer> to mark up
attribution, copyright information, etc.)

Given that the spec prohibits such nesting, I would like it to comment on
this.  Ideally it would suggest which semantic might be more important to mark
up explicitly.    I.e. is it more important to be able to mark up the
attributions with <footer>, or to mark appendices as <footer> material?

I think the implication is that it's _not_ particularly important to enclose
appendices using <footer> (and it should probably be avoided if there's a
chance of hitting this problem).  But a casual reader who was not initially
aware of the conflict could be left with the opposite impression.

Possibly the reference to appendices should be removed altogether.  The
examples regarding indexes and long license agreements are already quite

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User agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:2.0.1) Gecko/20100101
 #1   Ian 'Hixie' Hickson                             2011-06-21 07:31:09 +0000 
I guess we could allow nested footers if there happens to be a blockquote
between them?

Is there a real page that would be affected by this, or is it hypothetical?
 #2   Alan Jenkins                                    2011-06-21 10:37:07 +0000 
Sorry, it's hypothetical, but I should be more specific.  I'm thinking about
ebooks with appendices, which might contain letters - "Appendix E. Letters and
Correspondence".  (And wondering, even if it turns out <footer> isn't really
appropriate for such letters, whether some ebooks might want to include blog
comments in an appendix, using <footer> to attribute each comment).

I'm looking at this as a newb formatter for a Project Gutenberg e-book - HTML
version, whole book as a single file.  I'm trying to work out where I might use
<header> and <footer>.

The book I'm starting with is fairly simple.  It includes an introduction, with
the writers name at the end, like
<http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19826/19826-h/19826-h.htm#Page_7>.  An
unambiguous <footer>.

Then there's a couple of block-quoted letters, and the signatures are formatted
in almost exactly the same way.  It makes me want to apply <footer> there too.
I'm not sure that's the best choice, but it doesn't seem invalid either.  It
does seem to fit nicely with the "blog comment" example.  [Although the letters
are part of a work of fiction...].

Later, I'm trying to work out whether I should enclose the front matter (title
page etc) in <header>.  So I look again at the semantics for large <header>s
and <footer>s.  I notice that <footer> suggests itself for use in books with 
appendix sections.  And then I become confused, because one use of an appendix
is to enclose primary source material such as letters.  Again, <blockquote> may
well be a red herring - in an appendix of letters only, <article> might be more

The main options seem to be

 - permit nesting like this: <footer><section><footer>

 - <footer> is not necessarily appropriate for marking up letters.  (Perhaps
particularly letters quoted within a section which has a <footer>).

 - this spec design isn't focussed on e-books; leave this as an edge case. (But
perhaps try to avoid confusion by e.g. not mentioning appendixes when
discussing <footer>.)

 - Perhaps I'm missing something, and the sort of appendixes I'm thinking of
are different to what the writer had in mind. If <footer> isn't really
appropriate for the appendixes I'm thinking of, then there's no conflict.  (But
again, perhaps there's a way to make the spec clearer about it).
 #4   Ian 'Hixie' Hickson                             2011-08-16 04:41:46 +0000 
Why would a letter have a <footer>? I'm not sure I really follow.

I'm not fundamentally opposed to changing this, but it would be easier to
determine what is really needed if there was a concrete example to study.
 #5   Alan Jenkins                                    2011-08-16 16:08:49 +0000 
## Why would a letter have a <footer>? ##

In a letter,

<footer>Yours sincerely, Alan</footer>

might be used, to mark up similar information to <footer> in a blog comment, as
used in the example for "4.4.4 The article element".  The letter itself would
have to be an <article> or <blockquote>.

Put that inside "Appendix B: Correspondence" of a book, which is marked as an
appendix by being enclosed in the top-level <footer>, and you have your illegal
nesting.  It's unlikely to happen outside Project Gutenberg, because everywhere
else would put the Appendix in a separate HTML file.

A simpler example might be an Afterword which could be of interest in itself. 
E.g. the print edition of "The Atrocity Archives" (novel published in 2004)
ends with an essay -

      <h1>Afterword: Inside the Fear Factory</h1>

      <footer class="aligned-right">
        Charles Stross<br/>
        Edinburgh, UK<br/>
        April 2003<br/>

The inner footer seems exemplary to me, so I have to stop thinking that
appendices etc. should usually be enclosed in <footer>.  Noting that the spec
doesn't (I think) explicitly _require_ me to do so, and/or that representing
the structure of an entire book is not a priority of HTML5.  Again - if that's
how it ends up, I don't think it's going to be a problem for the cases I'm
thinking of.

Maybe it would be clearer if <article> (and <blockquote?) was also banned
inside <footer>?  Is it ever appropriate to use <article> (or blockquote?) if
you're not allowed to include a <footer>?  I really don't know.

Hmm.  If a "verbose license agreement" in a <footer> was a Free Software-like
license (a standard license released by someone like the FSF), it should be
marked as an <article>, I should think.  If you literally included the entire
text of the Creative Commons license... then it does appear to have a footer of
its own

(search for "Creative Commons Notice").

which affects books which are published online as a single HTML file, under the
Creative Commons license.  Historically, that's the preferred format for
conversion into arbitrary offline reading formats.

Here's an example book which includes the full CC license text (footer >
article ?), including the "Creative Commons Notice" (footer > article > footer

 #6   Ian 'Hixie' Hickson                             2011-09-21 23:06:20 +0000 
Those are some valid examples, I think. I wonder how common they are.

I'm going to mark this bug "LATER" for now, so that we can collect experience
with the current state of things and see what the right direction is here. I
agree with the points you've raised.

The reason I'm not just doing what you suggest is that there is a cost to
allowing arbitrary markup — we fail to catch authoring errors, and we encourage
rather messy markup. Whether the cost is higher or lower than the gains is
unclear, which is why I haven't simply rejected the bug.

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to add more examples of indirectly
nested footers, especially on real pages or documents. Also worth looking for
it sites where people nest footers incorrectly (i.e. where they do it but it
doesn't make sense).

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Received on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 22:01:37 UTC

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