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Proposal for XHTML 2.0: The <footnote> element

From: Jonas Jørgensen <jonasj@jonasj.dk>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 00:29:18 +0100
Message-ID: <3E249D4E.5000304@jonasj.dk>
To: www-html@w3.org
Cc: www-html-editor@w3.org

[This message is CC'ed to www-html-editor in accordance with what I 
believe is the official way to suggest new elements. Please don't CC 
www-html-editor on followups to this message.]

I hereby propose for inclusion in XHTML 2.0 a <footnote> element for 
marking up footnotes.

Typically, footnotes in HTML are done using "[1]" (or similar) as the 
reference to the footnote, with the number linked to a paragraph at the 
bottom of the document. Here's an example of such markup:

<p>There exists no element for marking up footnotes[<a 
href="#footnote1">1</a>] in the current XHTML 2.0 draft.</p>
<p id="footnote1">A footnote is a note of reference or comment at the 
foot of a page.</p>

There are several problems with this approach:

* When printed, the footnote will be on the last page instead of on the 
page containing the reference to the footnote.

* When copying text containing a footnote from one HTML document to 
another, you need to copy two pieces of text from two different places 
in the document.

* If you add a footnote in the middle of a document, you need to 
renumber the footnotes in the rest of the document manually.

These problems could be solved by marking up the footnote as a footnote 
and putting the footnote where it belongs, after the text that 
references it, instead of at the end of the document.

With a <footnote> element, the above example would become:

<p>There exists no element for marking up footnotes<footnote>A footnote 
is a note of reference or comment at the foot of a page.</footnote> in 
the current XHTML 2.0 draft.</p>

Additional advantages of this approach:

* Cleaner markup; easier to read and write.

* User agents can handle presentation any way they want. For example, a 
visual user agent might insert a footnote reference where the <footnote> 
element is, and display the contents of the <footnote> element at the 
bottom of the canvas when the reference is visible.

* Aural user agents can handle footnotes in a more user-friendly manner.

Received on Tuesday, 14 January 2003 18:29:30 UTC

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