W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > January 2005

Re: rel="nofollow" attribute

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 12:43:32 +0100
To: "Mark Birbeck" <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Cc: www-html@w3.org, w3c-html-wg@w3.org
Message-ID: <41fdd0ab.243571140@smtp.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>

* Mark Birbeck wrote:
>Now, that doesn't mean I'm against the idea -- and of course Google have a
>perfect right to introduce techniques to try and enhance the user
>experience. But we have to say that the proposed solution is a pretty bad
>one! Anyway the web won't collapse, and life will go on, but for the record
>I've said why I feel the whole thing is a slippery slope -- and runs counter
>to one of the goals of XHTML 2.0, which is to tidy up the metadata story of
>HTML -- at:

I think there is only one XHTML 2.0 design goal, which is to use generic
XML technologies as much as possible. I am not sure why you think XHTML
2.0 might ship with proper metadata facilities, it rather seems it will
keep those in the latest public draft or incorporate the RDF/A proposal
that you co-edit.

>    The problem with this whole proposal is that it changes
>    the meaning of the @rel attribute -- or if
>    we were to slip into OO terminology for a moment, it
>    *overloads* the attribute. The whole point of
>    @rel is to define a relationship between
>    two documents. The whole point of 'nofollow'
>    is to say that there is *no* relationship between
>    two documents.

In the context of "comment spam" the point of the value is to override a
default value for the attribute that some user agents imply--that there
is a relationship--with that the relationship is unknown and there might
be none. In other contexts the value means that the link does not imply
endorsement of the resource that is referred to. Also note that the rel
attribute as defined in HTML 4.01 does not describe "a" relationship but
rather *the* relationship(s). It is perfectly reasonable to say that the
relationship of x to y is unknown or unimportant.

>    It's like using a special value of the
>    title element to say that there is no title, or a
>    special value of the @style attribute to say that
>    there is no style -- it's just plain wrong. You cannot
>    say that the relationship between two documents is that
>    a search engine should ignore the relationship between
>    those two documents!

Google changed the meaning of the lack of rel/rev attributes by implying
meaningful relationships from links which is inconsistent with HTML 4.0;
and now they seek to woraround the problems this has caused. That this
is even more inconsistent with HTML 4.0 does not come by surprise; maybe
it suggests that the HTML model in this regard was broken as designed...
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de
Weinh. Str. 22 · Telefon: +49(0)621/4309674 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
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Received on Friday, 21 January 2005 11:43:22 UTC

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