Re: Format Negociation in Practice [Was: Versioning HTML at the server]

Peter Flynn (
18 Oct 1994 23:00:37 +0100

I'd actually say that the Mcom extensions are less worrisome than tables:
if a document uses Mcom extensions, it still makes sense in existing
browsers. It looks like they were fairly careful about that.

I just think they were <*treading carefully*> would
have been so easy to do it in the normal way. However, time will tell.
Maybe we should listen to the publishers and implement widespread
visual markup capability in all elements as standard attributes, which
is also easy. I have had several messages saying MCom doesn't go far
enough, and that they really, badly need to be able to say things like

<hilite render="StoneInformal-Oblique" size="22pt" color="green"
tone="gradated" upperend="topright" lowerend="bottomleft" angle=27
background="yellow" distortion="skew" skew=15>MCom</hilite>

But I don't think the technical details are the problem any more:
we have to make it easy for information providers to _use_ format

I don't know if this means more tutorial documentation, or some
http server configuration options, or changes to clients, or what.

I have a few ideas, but I'd like to hear from other folks: how can
we clean this mess up? Or is format negociation just not gonna work?

My $0.02 is the following:

a. Clients should compulsorily tell servers what level they can

b. Clients should pledge support to a specific level and do it or better.

c. We should react much more swiftly to the need for additions/changes
while HTML is in this developmental stage, and publicize the things
we decide much more widely and more frequently (but I guess we have
to resist "creeping featurism" to some degree)

d. If a file is a valid HTML file at level X, and a client can only
support level Y (where Y<X), then it is the client's responsibility
to "apologise" to the user that it can't show all the things
present in the file. We apparently still have browsers around that
don't support the accented character entities properly, for example.

What can we do to avoid:

"Click _here_ if your browser doesn't support tables."
"Click _here_ if your browser doesn't support multilingual docs."
"Click _here_ if your browser doesn't support figures."
"Click _here_ if your browser doesn't support math."
"Click _here_ if your browser doesn't support stylesheets."

Browsers should be more honest and not pretend to be HTML compliant if
they are not, or at least provide enough configuration for the user to
work around.