W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > May 2007

Re: Cleaning House

From: Christoph Päper <christoph.paeper@crissov.de>
Date: Sun, 6 May 2007 23:00:36 +0200
Message-Id: <97DE2CA3-59E6-4B89-A2B3-EC421BA5AD0F@crissov.de>
Cc: www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org
To: Tina Holmboe <tina@greytower.co.uk>

Tina Holmboe:
> On Sat, May 05, 2007 at 11:26:45PM +0200, Christoph Päper wrote:
>> Tina Holmboe:
>>> On Sat, May 05, 2007 at 09:10:19AM -0400, Murray Maloney wrote:
>>>> The semantics* of <em> is emphasise, probably with italics
>> "Emphasis" can be semantics, but "emphasise" cannot, (...)
>   Are you responding to Murray, or to me?

In this part I responded to Murray, obviously. Subsequently I was  
mostly responding to you.

>> How much does it matter really how something was defined in an
>> earlier version of a standard if the new definition is basically
>> compatible?
>   It has, to put it mildly, enormous impact. If we in 2007
>   say that "The I-element shall now no longer be used to produce
>   italics style font like every document using it assume, but
>   rather to mean so-and-so" then we will end up with a staggering
>   amount of so-and-so's which are nothing of the kind.

It would, but nobody is proposing that. Reread my if-clause.

HTML specifications used to say |i| marks up text that is to be  
rendered in a different style than default (and less obtrusive than  
that of |b|), usually italic in Western, bicameral scripts. WA1 still  
says that, but also says why one would usually choose |i|.

Who currently uses or has used |i| where HTML provided a more precise  
element type already didn't use the language correctly. These cases  
don't need to be considered in the development of the next generation  
of HTML. They may show us that education should be improved, e.g. by  
easier to grasp standards.
We do not want to allow previously incorrect behaviour, but  
previously undefined behaviour.

It has always been an inline-level element and therefore instances  
where it encloses a block-level element don't need to be considered  
either, for they are grammatical errors.

If the number of instances where |i| was really used stylistic, i.e.  
surrounding other elements which could have been styled with CSS  
instead, is significant compared to the other legitimate uses we  
probably should refrain from redefining it and introduce other  
specialised element types instead.

>   We're stuck with the I-element meaning a font style; there's
>   nothing more to be had.

I don't agree with the position taken by some people in this thread  
that |i| and |em| are basically synonyms in the real world and  
therefore should be synonyms in the standard.

I don't agree that |i| means italic text either, because at least  
since HTML 4 stylesheets provided the means to change the  
presentation of any element. Its content should never be rendered  
exactly like surrounding text, though, but the kind of diversion is  

>   The I-element /is not/ used for semantic purposes in the real world,

It definitely is used for semantic purposes. It is also use purely  
presentational. And it is abused (as described above).

>   and I doubt anyone would be particularly happy to see
>    "Come to the <i>wedding of the century</i>!"
>   interpreted as a "proper name"*.
>  *Yes, we /could/ interpret it as <em>. When someone write
>   an AI able to tell the difference between the two we
>   can reopen this case.

This is one example of the misuses of HTML I described. There is no  
need for artificial intelligence here, because the markup must still  
be done by human intelligence. (Someone once said, real stupidity  
beats artificial intelligence every time.)
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 21:00:51 UTC

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