Re: Suggestion for HTML Text Format Elements

Alex Hopmann (
Tue, 4 Jul 95 15:47:30 EDT

On 4 July 95 Andre J. Emmell writes:
>One thing I can predict,
>based on
>my experience, is that one day USERS will dictate locally how each element will
>be displayed, printed and used on their systems. The author who wants to
>dictate from the source how the text should be displayed will be
>"out to lunch" very soon.
Actually I feel that I have to disagree on this point. Most people using the
web have no idea what the different HTML tags are. What they want is a
browser that will show them their documents the way the documents author
intended. And yes I realize that most users don't understand the true power
of SGML markup, and what they could have. But I sincerely see a trend that
those browsers which make things look right, possibly at the expense of user
adjustment capabilities, are very strong in market share.

Just a quick idea: NCSA Mosaic has a "Style Window" which lets people adjust
the display carateristics for various tags. I would love to see some "market
research" to find out what sort of people actually used this feature (if any).

Before we get to far into this let me just state that I understand the many
powerful features of SGML markup, etc. I even agree that serious publishers
should consider very carefully what sort of markup they use for publishing
on the internet.

BUT, I don't think this working group should be so naive as to think that we
have some pure idea of what HTML ought to be and that we can convince the
whole world to follow. Because if we do that, other commercial vendors will
just go ahead and do whatever they want. And the most scary thing to me is
not that some less than ideal tags might find their way into HTML, but
rather that in the attempts of the various commercial vendors to outdo each
other we will be left with a mass of incompadible crap. This also brings up
another point about Andre's request that we slow down and consider things
carefully. In principle I agree with the idea, but in pratice it won't work.
In pratice we already have HTML 3 tables (as implemented by Netscape), and
signifigant changes probably are difficult. In pratice I had to use the HTML
3 draft <FIG> tag in a product. These commercial applications are not going
to wait for this working-group, so its really a matter of whether the
working group can keep up with the pace or become irrelevent.

Sorry, I wrote a bit more than I was intending to. Now lets get back to work...

Alex Hopmann
ResNova Software, Inc.