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Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

Subject: Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful
From: Guy_Murphy@xxxxxxxxxx
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 11:01:17 +0100


Lets take a look at what we'll be loosing in loosing HTML....

We'll loose a handful of Hn tags, that are very rarely used correctly on
the majority of Web sites out there.

We'll loose a P tag, that might be a shame and is the only tag I think
might be missed. But incrasingly the DIV is being used in it's place.

We'll loose ADDRESS, CITE, BLOCKQUOTE etc etc..... take a surf around the
Net and take a look at how many sites use these tags... precious few.

And I could go on. My point however is that if your concern is abuse, HTML
*is* heavily abused, resulting in a semantic mess.

Why is HTML abused? I would argue because it does not address the needs of
authors, and so they are adopting a working practice that suits their
needs, in many cases a presentational orientated practice, rather than
document-centric one.

You see HTML splits in two. One half addresses directly presentation, and
cannot be seen to add structural semantics to a document useful for
anything other than formatting.

The other half gives semantics for a very simply "academic" style document,
due to the evolution of HTML and it's origins....Why do you insist on
foisting this semantic on the rest of the Web? It is wholy inappropriate
for maybe 90+% of websites out there. The reason why people are not using
HTML semantics correctly is because they aren't producing accademic
documents in the main. they are producing Web sites on Quake, or fishing,
or their online romances. What these people are concened with is how their
site is presented, which is why presentation semantics are appropriate to
their needs. In this way we might actualy start seeing documents with some
degree of semantic predictability.

As a side issue, it is worth noting that in using XSL for XML documents in
IE5 on the client-side, one does not loose the original semantics, because
on viewing source one gets a view of the original XML document.... what is
lost? Where transformation takes place on the server one will always loose
the original data semantics whether using ASP, PHP or whatever.

As another side note, I spent some time with two colloeagues writting a Web
crawler for a categorisation engine, neither of which are HTML users, but
simply have to start parsign HTML documents on the Web. They are lamenting
the absolute mess and completely ununiform, inconsistent and downright
wrong usage that is the current state of HTML on the Web.

Please, can we move on quickly and pretend that HTML never happened?



xsl-list@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on 04/25/99 10:52:00 PM

To:   xsl-list@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
cc:    (bcc: Guy Murphy/UK/MAID)
Subject:  Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

 > CSS+HTML has just as much potential for abuse as XSL FOs.  Any
 > stylesheet language that provides an inline style mechanism has the
 > potential for abuse: it allows you to use inline style instead of
 > semantically meaningful markup.
In theory, yes. However, when using HTML you always have the
possibility of doing the right thing. Normally, a SPAN element comes
in between more abstract elements and is only used for the odd visual
effect. Fairly harmless.
If you use FO as a document format, you only have a formatting
vocabulary at your disposal and your objects are bound to a certain
media type.
H?kon Wium Lie             http://www.operasoftware.com/people/howcome
howcome@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                      simply a better browser

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