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[whatwg] framesets

From: Peter Brawley <pb@artfulsoftware.com>
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 2009 20:23:41 -0500
Message-ID: <4AD1339D.5020302@artfulsoftware.com>
Edouard,

>Use case: displaying tree-based content (editable or not). (Note: I'm
>omitting the database aspect because it only matters on the server
>side: once on the client, the page doesn't care whether the data comes
>from/goes to a database, a collection of files, or anywhere else).

I'm afraid that empties meaning from the use case, whose requirements 
significant to this discussion arise from the database context:
(i) the required page is a database maintenance webapp,
(ii) the data it maintains is in the form of a tree, and
(iii) the objects of database maintenance (rows in the database tables 
which instantiate the tree) usually should not be bookmarkable for the 
same reason other database webapps (eg phpMyAdmin) do not bookmark 
database data---a bookmark belongs to a browser, but a row of database 
table data belongs not to a browser but to users who may CRUD it, /and 
access to such objects must not be shortcutted/. That is, database 
maintenance in a webapp depends at least partly on protecting data from 
some popular web mechanisms. If that offends HTML purists, or if this 
use case conflicts with an "original" idea about the web, so be it. For 
this context, HTML is just a device for getting useful things done on 
the web while enforcing the rules of database maintenance.

>First, let's look at what the currently existing solutions are: I may
>be missing some, but I hope the range is descriptive enough:
>A) <table>+<iframe>: This meets requirements 1, 2, and 5 out of the
>box. Requirement 3 could be achieved with some javascript.
>B) CSS position:fixed + overflow:auto: Again, this meets requirements
>1, 2, and 5. Requirement 3 would also be achievable with a bit of
>scripting.
>C) Insane <div>s + CSS + Scripting: This essentially meets all
>requirements (maybe excluding 4, depending on what the actual
>requirement is); although at a high development cost. (This would be
>the "MSDN style" approach.)
>D) HTML4 Frameset + HTML5 documents for frame contents: this meets
>requirements 1, 2, 3, and 5 out of the box, it's an almost trivial
>upgrade from any HTML4 web-app that takes a similar approach, and is
>relatively easy to implement.

Seems to me many developers would regard B & C as hacks. At they very 
least they'd be more awkward than framesets. I think I've already 
touched on why the MSDN approach is undesirable. You are not the first 
to claim that A (tables & iframes) can meet this spec. I'm not an HTML 
expert (which apparently frustrates you) but if A meets the spec, I 
ought to have been able to find a working instance in the past six years 
or so, don't you think? Or do you claim it's /entirely fortuitous/ that 
the only publicly well known solutions for this spec use framesets?

Re D), reasons for opposing removing framesets from HTML5 include: (i) 
removal of a feature from a standard is often followed by further 
degradation of support for it, which would undermine the functionality I 
want HTML to support since framesets are commonly used, for good 
reasons, to meet this use case, (ii) there could be HTML5 features one 
would want to combine with framesets.

Apropos the strange claims made here that removal of framesets should 
make no difference to present or future frameset use: /if removal makes 
no difference whatever, there is no rationale for removing them/.

PB
-----

Eduard Pascual wrote:
> On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 6:12 AM, Peter Brawley <pb at artfulsoftware.com> wrote:
>   
>> [lots...]
>>     
>
> Now, your last mail does describe the use-cases and their presumed
> requirements. Your wording is maybe a bit messy, but you have at least
> provided something worth discussing.
> Just to make sure I (and others) are understanding your proposal as
> intended, I'll try to paraphrase it in a more structured way (please,
> if I got something wrong, just let me know):
>
> Use case: displaying tree-based content (editable or not). (Note: I'm
> omitting the database aspect because it only matters on the server
> side: once on the client, the page doesn't care whether the data comes
> from/goes to a database, a collection of files, or anywhere else).
> Requirements:
> 1) The display will use multiple subwindows, such as "header",
> "tree-view", and "content" (the names are arbitrary, hope they are
> descriptive and concise).
> 2) The subwindows (or some of them) need to be independently scrollable.
> 3) The subwindows must be resizable.
> 4) The tree structure being displayed may be protected through some
> permission mechanism, so each user only gets to see or interact with
> the nodes such user has permissions for.
> 5) The "back button" and "bookmark" features shouldn't work.
>
> So far, so good. Just if you had gone a bit further...
> That's a use-case with a series of requirements. This is a good
> beginning, but let's go to the next steps.
> Requirement justification: you haven't provided any (it's the
> requirements, not the use-case itself, what needs to be justified; a
> use-case is inherently justified by the real-world needs it
> addresses).
> For requirements 1 to 3, I can assume as an implicit justification
> something like "this is the behavior every user would expect" or
> anything like that, so let's move forward.
> For requirement 4, things are a bit weird: should authentication be
> handled on the server or on the client side? It seems that it has to
> be handled on the server side, so the nodes a user is not allowed to
> see should never be sent to the client (otherwise, the user could look
> at the source, hack through grease-monkey scripts, or override the
> permission system in many ways). If it's handled by the server, then
> it isn't relevant to HTML: HTML is a client-side language. If there is
> some need to handle (part of) the authentication issue from the
> client, you should provide more details and justify such need;
> otherwise the requirement can just be omitted as it wouldn't be
> relevant.
> Requirement 5 does need some justification. In my opinion, there is no
> need on your use case for these features (back button and bookmarks)
> to work, but is there any real need for them to break? If there is,
> please justify it; if there isn't, then that's not a requirement (it
> would just be the absence of a requirement for these features to
> work). Not needing them to work is *not* the same as needing them to
> break.
>
> Now, leaving aside the issues with the last two requirements, we can
> move forward. The next step would be to see which requirements are met
> by currently existing solutions, and which aren't. I will be ignoring
> for now Requirement 4 because it's unclear what the actual requirement
> would be.
> First, let's look at what the currently existing solutions are: I may
> be missing some, but I hope the range is descriptive enough:
> A) <table>+<iframe>: This meets requirements 1, 2, and 5 out of the
> box. Requirement 3 could be achieved with some javascript.
> B) CSS position:fixed + overflow:auto: Again, this meets requirements
> 1, 2, and 5. Requirement 3 would also be achievable with a bit of
> scripting.
> C) Insane <div>s + CSS + Scripting: This essentially meets all
> requirements (maybe excluding 4, depending on what the actual
> requirement is); although at a high development cost. (This would be
> the "MSDN style" approach.)
> D) HTML4 Frameset + HTML5 documents for frame contents: this meets
> requirements 1, 2, 3, and 5 out of the box, it's an almost trivial
> upgrade from any HTML4 web-app that takes a similar approach, and is
> relatively easy to implement.
>
> Finally, once it is shown that currently existing solutions can't
> handle the use-case (which hasn't been shown: C and D both can, and A
> and B can as well if a bit of scripting is added to handle the
> resizing requirement), it would only be left to verify that your
> proposal actually meets the requirements. There is a problem here,
> however: What is your proposal? I'm not sure why you haven't described
> your proposal. If you want the editor to change the spec, it's quite a
> good idea to describe the changes you want to be made on the spec.
>
> In summary, what you need to do is:
> 1) Correct me if I made any mistakes when trying to synthesize your use-case.
> 2) Clarify and justify Requirement 4.
> 3) Justify Requirement 5.
> 4) Describe your proposal.
> 5) Show how does your proposal meet all of the requirements for the use-case.
>
> As far as this has gone, my impression is that you want a HTML5
> Frameset document type that is exactly identical to the HTML 4
> version. It is pointless to "update" a version of a standard to a new
> version that includes no changes at all.
> Keep in mind that Frameset and content are two different document
> types, with different content models (for example, a frameset page has
> no <body>). HTML5 currently replaces/updates the Transitional/Strict
> document types; it doesn't deal with Frameset because nothing is being
> changed on it, so HTML4 Frameset stays valid as the "newest" (despite
> its age) standard for frameset "master" pages.
>
> Regards,
> Eduard Pascual
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