Re: ACTION re: HTML 3: Too many tags!

Ian Graham (
Fri, 28 Jul 95 10:16:01 EDT

> [cc of message to www-html:]
> >Joe English <> wrote:
> >
> >> Ian Graham <> wrote:
> >>
> >> > My point is that, when converting legacy documents, there is often *no*
> >> > primary meaning -- you only have the physical style. [...]
> I must agree. In my experience the majority of the web content I've put
> online has been legacy documents of which I was not the author: the NASA
> Strategic Plan, for example, which I was not authorized to "modify" in any
> way (as might be expected). Even documents being written for inclusion on
> our server come to me containing a word processor's physical styles.
[.. more points arguing for the preservation of physical markup elements....]
> I would turn this entirely on its head, given the current discussion. If
> most source text comes from legacy documents, then physical markup can
> continue to be created by conversion routines.
> I would prefer instead that ALL logical/semantic/informational (depending
> on your language) markup be a single element, with attributes providing the
> semantic information (eg., VAR,DFN,EM,STRONG,ABBREV, etc.).
> This would allow for:
> 1. all sorts of subclassing (as per Benjamin, Paul et al's
> discussion on the subject) based on content rather than appearance
> 2. more consistent markup: all physical markup would be literally
> implemented (bold tags for bold text), while semantic information
> would be covered by one element.
> 3. allow informational formatting to proceed according to stylesheets,
> leaving physical markup solely to the browser as per the original
> source document's display characteristics, unless overridden.
> This obviously is a radical rewrite of the current DTD, but I think it
> warrants some consideration.
> Murray

Do attributes necessarily make composite semantic markup easier
to understand? For example, consider:
<SEM CLASS="author strong">Antoine St. Exupery</SEM>
Does this mean that the strongly emphasized string is an
author's name, or should it mean that the string is an
author's name, who should be strongly emphasized? In this
case, ordering of the attributes seems important.

On the other hand, the string:
<AU><STRONG>Antoine St. Exupery</STRONG></AU>
would mean "the strongly empasized string is an author",
<STRONG><AU>Antoine St. Exupery</AU></STRONG>
should mean "the author is strongly emphasized".
These different meanings are , to my mind, more clearly
expressed through tag placement than through attribute


Ian Graham ............................
Information Commons
University of Toronto