comments on HTML 2.0 Spec

Warren Wiscombe (
Mon, 30 Jan 95 10:02:34 EST


I picked up the HTML Specification - 2.0, dated Oct 17, 1994, and wanted
to send a few comments. It is very nicely written overall. There are two
important omissions, however:

** in sec 3.13 FORMS, the example in sec 3.13.1 shows <input name="family"
type=int> but later there is no description of INT as one of the allowed
TYPE values; the summary in sec 2.1.6 also omits this possibility; it
makes me wonder whether there is also a TYPE=REAL, etc.

** in sec 3.13.1, the <P> tag is shown with an option ALIGN=CENTER, yet in
the formal definition (sec 3.12.1) this option is not mentioned; it would
be very useful to know this, since centered paragraphs are quite handy at

Other omissions:

** in sec 2.1.5, ISMAP and SRC are on the same line; it looks like they
should be on separate lines, with a definition following ISMAP

** in sec 2.1.7, the quote character was not mentioned

** in sec 3.4, it says each HTML document should start with the prologue

<!doctype ....>

but no further mention is made of this, and none of the examples use it,
even though the following text says "this prologue must be prepended"; is
this required or not? I have never seen it in any HTML docs on the Web

** sec 3.4.6: apparently a lot more than "historical implementations" use
> to end a comment; my HTML editor uses > in preference to --> because it
says MOST browsers still make this "mistake"

** sec 3.5.2: the Macintosh WWW browsers seem to handle relative filename
addresses incorrectly, and I always wind up having to specify the full path
to any file; somewhere this ought to be mentioned, perhaps here under BASE

** sec 3.5.3: the discussion of ISINDEX left me confused; an example
would help

** sec 3.5.4: it is not clear why the LINK element is necessary, unless it
is because of the final sentence in this section -- but that is not stated;
links are more naturally put in the BODY, so the reader is left wondering
why they would want to put them in the HEAD

** sec 3.6.3: the reader is left wondering if he should use TITLE or not,
because it is called "dangerous"; some better guidance is needed here

The following elements are poorly defined, so that it was not clear to
me how one would use them:

** <SAMP>, sec 3.8.6; what is a "sequence of literal characters"? Or more
to the point, how is that different than any other text?

** ISMAP, sec 3.10: a pointer to information on how to create an imagemap
is needed, at least

** <DIR>, sec 3.11.2: it was not clear how the columns would line up in a
browser, even for the simple example shown; would they be left-justified,
fixed width columns, etc.?

** <MENU>, sec 3.11.3: (if this just makes an OL or UL without blank lines
between list items, it hardly seems worth a separate tag; it should just be
an option on OL, UL)

Also, the FORMS discussion in sec 3.13 would be much improved by the

** in sec 3.13.3, the description of ACTION was not really complete enough,
and only when I asked a colleague did I find out that your word "location"
usually meant an executable script or program, and that there is no need to
"elicit a response" since the script can just, for example, file the
information on the FORM without sending any acknowledgment (rude, I know,
but possible)

** in sec 3.13.3, the description of METHOD is incomplete; it would be
nice to have a short description of what POST and GET mean, and what METHOD
the average user should choose

** nowhere is it said that the FORM becomes STDIN for the program which is
the target of the ACTION field; this is important information for the
person writing the program to process the form!

** it would be nice to show a sample shell script for processing an
incoming FORM, say a script that just puts the information in the FORM onto
a file, or e-mails it to somebody; then a user could just copy the script
and start practicing with FORMs immediately (right now he would have to
consult other sources before getting started)

Dr. Warren J. Wiscombe, Goddard DAAC Project Scientist
NASA Goddard, Code 913, Greenbelt, MD 20771