Re: Fate of <P> [Was: Toward Closure on HTML]

Daniel W. Connolly (
Thu, 07 Apr 1994 13:50:36 -0500

In message <>, "Roy T. Fielding" writes:
>Dan Connolly writes:
>> In message <>, Dave Raggett writes:
>>>SGML allows you to omit end tags when specified by the document type
>>>definition, as parsers can easily infer the end of the element. In this
>>>case the next <P> tag implies the end of the previous paragraph.
>> I suggest that even though this is doable, it is not consistent with
>> current practice -- and I'm not talking about technical matters here.
>> Much of the HTML documentation (NCSA's primer, CERN doc, etc.) says
>> that <P> is a paragraph separator, not a paragraph container. I think
>> this is the way 95% of the HTML authors see it in their heads.
>While this is true today, I don't think that it makes any difference
>given the way Dave has defined the <P> element in HTML+. All of the
>current primers could be changed within a single day if people on this
>list get it in their heads to do so. Given the rate of change on the Web
>and the current lack of established authoring tools for HTML, I think
>95% of HTML authors would be using <P> as a container within 3 months.
>Furthermore, a simple script could be written to reformat most existing
>HTML documents (a generic parser for SGML is unnecessary and less useful
>because it cannot intuit the intentions behind the elements). Naturally,
>some of the more "artistic" documents would require hand-editing, but
>they are rarely conforming to begin with. I'll write the script myself
>once I get done with my stack of current scripts-to-write (at least a
>month's worth already). Hopefully, several other people will have already
>done so by then.

This is a reasonable argument. In fact, I agree completely.
I'm sure I could augment html-mode.el to do this while it's putting
quotes around attribute values, for example.

The question is: which way is the momentum out there? Will folks
really clean up their stuff? How long will it be before I can
use an SGML parser and a P container with reasonable results
on real stuff out there?

The fact remains that stuff parses as-is with the empty P element.
So if anybody's interested in an immediate informational RFC, that's
the way it's got to be.

Whether there's anything between html.dtd v and HTML+ remains
to be seen.

>> I suggest HTML+ use a new name for this paragraph container element,
>> say PP. When folks mean paragraph separator, they can write <P>. When
>> they mean container, they can write <PP>.
>Sorry, but I think that's a terrible idea. It would give us two syntactic
>forms for a single semantic structure -- that of a paragraph -- where only
>one form is necessary.

Again, I'll assert that <P> is a separator and <PP> is a container. Two
different things.

> In addition, a <PP> element would be ignored by ALL
>existing clients whereas using <P> as a container is already accepted by

So write
<PP>Here's my para<p></pp>

and it'll work everywhere. When <pp> is well established, just
s/<p>//g and be done with it. I guarantee that's a lot easier and
more reliable than the script that changes <p> from a separator
to a container.


Daniel W. Connolly "We believe in the interconnectedness of all things"
Software Engineer, Hal Software Systems, OLIAS project (512) 834-9962 x5010