Re: Erm, is HTML content or presentation based?

Joe English (
Tue, 08 Aug 1995 14:23:47 -0700

Daniel W. Connolly <> wrote:
> Toward a Formalism for Communication On the Web
> $Id: html-essay.html,v 1.2 1994/02/15 20:07:12 connolly Exp $
> Then, as I began to comprehend SGML with all its warts, (who's idea
> was it to attach the significance of a newline character to the phase
> of the moon anyway?) I was less gung-ho about declaring all the HTML
> out there to be blasphemy to the One True SGML Way.
> Thus I chose for my battle to find some formal relationship between
> the SGML standard and the HTML that was "out there." The quest was:
> Find some DTD such that the vast majority of HTML documents are
> instances of that DTD, conversely, such that all its instances make
> sense to the existing WWW clients.

I certainly hope that HTML's evolution has progressed beyond
that stage, though!

This is what I called "working against SGML instead of with it"
in a recent message to html-wg [1]. Starting with a syntax
and trying to reverse-engineer a DTD that accepts that syntax
is a path to frustration and despair. But now that HTML 2.0
more or less successfully describes the current state of
affairs, there is no reason at all to continue doing things this way.
If future extensions are designed, defined, and described in
terms of SGML from the beginning, the formalism will prove
to be more beneficial than burdensome.

If that's not to be the case, and designers continue to work
backwards from a preconceived syntax to a post-hoc formal definition,
I strongly urge that SGML be abandoned altogether before any more
damage is done. HTML won't gain anything by using it, and will
give SGML a bad name to boot.

--Joe English

[1] I can't get to the archives at at the moment; see