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

Murray Altheim (
Thu, 27 Jul 1995 16:12:21 -0400

>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.

As legacy documents generally contain *only* physical styles, document
curators would be forced to make decisions regarding the author's
intentions for each instance of a physical style, eg., "does this warrant
emphasis or strong emphasis" for bold, or "is this a citation or a
blockquote" for italic?.

These types of decisions I warrant will not be made properly by document
conversion routines, only through manual editing. Given that curators don't
always have access to the document author for these types of decisions,
physical markup becomes a necessity.

>I have assumed that deprecation is (hopefully) the 'elemental' road to
>>oblivion. [...]

If this is true, then IMO certain physical styles should never be
deprecated but remain within the recommended part of the spec, assuming
that conversion of legacy documents will always be an issue.

>> > This is a nontrivial debate, considering the types of things Netscape has
>> > tried to fiddle in with their FONT element. (I used this name for a
>> > reason!). So, the question becomes -- where does one stop with physical
>> > formatting elements?
>> My opinion: add exactly one more element, and then stop. Any new
>> formatting characteristics should be added as attributes on that
>> element. (This would have to be a new element because all of
>> the existing formatting elements are special-purpose.)
>> --Joe English
>If deprecating all the other physical elements is acceptable, and workable,
>then I heartily agree. I just don't think that it would be acceptable, to
>the user community, to do so.
>Ian .............................................

I believe if we look at the majority of our source documents, and the types
of physical styles that they contain, it provides us with a model of which
to include, simply for sake of legacy document conversion. I think this is
intelligently handled in the current DTD (although I will disagree on SMALL
and BIG). While issues of text size obviously need to be handled
differently, commonly used character modifications (such as bold, underline
or italic), as well as placement (subscript/superscript), need to be
available as markup.

<STRONG>Unfortunately</STRONG>, the editing tools used to create the
majority of modern documents use physical styles to modify text. When MS
Word and WordPerfect begin implementing Emphasis and Citation as character
formatting options, we can <B>begin</B> to deprecate physical styles.

If I'm taking your statement correctly, Joe, then this new element would be
something akin to a generic physical style element, with the attribute
containing the physical style information.

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 M. Altheim, Information Systems Analyst
National Technology Transfer Center, Wheeling, West Virginia