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From Stefano Mazzocchi <stef...@apache.org>
Subject Re: [OT] Design Rant
Date Fri, 21 Dec 2001 13:13:16 GMT
Alistair Hopkins wrote:
> 
> <snip>HTML was always intended to render semantic information</snip>

Yeah, until a guy named Marc Andreesen ruined the whole thing on a
weekend adding the the <img> tag (and leaving it open!) to Mosaic :)

> I know it was always intended.

HTML was created to be more or less the equivalent of today's
'simplified docbook' with metadata and hyperlinks.

If Mosaic were created a couple of years later, we could probably have
CSS since 1995... but wouldn't have XSLT now. Oh well, IT revisionism is
useless to change the present, but it's useful to avoid making future
mistakes.

> I'm just wondering, where does that stand now we have XML? 

Well, that's both a reasonable and unreasonable question. HTML stands to
SGML, like XHTML stands to XML. So, when browsers support the XHTML
syntax (all 6th generation do, AFAIK), we are left with the same exact
semantics.

But the question could be understood as 'what is the impact of the XML
model on a web currently made almost entirely out of HTML/XHTML
semantics?"

That's a good question and I think nobody has an answer that is free
from subjective visions.

> become a formatting language, in an evolutionary kind of way?

I would love to find presentation-oriented semantics deprecated from
XHTML 1.1 (at least, the <b><i><tt> tags, please, let's kill them?!).

Rather than this, I think the HTML structural semantics
(head,body,p,ul,table) are a very nice (and simple!) set of tags.

Instead of using 'simplified docbook', I'd say 'use pure XHTML' to write
your XML documents and live well, but if you need more structure (for
example on paged media), it's probably better if you use Docbook
directly... but on the other hand, docbook is very complex, probably too
much.

> If you want a
> semantic markup language for your information, don't we now have the option
> of producing a really powerful customised one for our specific subset of
> data?

Yes, of course. This is what XSLT gave us: nothing about 'style', but
the ability to separate concerns between different kinds of markups.
 
> <snip>Why waste our time trying to get one page that renders the same in all
> browsers</snip>

> I totally agree.  I hate NS4, particularly the size of FORMS.  I'm canning
> support for it next year.

I'm writing this message on Netscape 4.78 mailer, Mozilla isn't up to
job or replacing this years-old mailer that served me so well under
every operating system.... but I can't stand the navigator....oh, I wish
Netscape incorporated Gecko into NS4 and released Netscape 5.0 last year
instead of going all the way to 6.0 and rewrite the entire thing.

That was a *VERY* bad marketing decision to wait for *YEARS* to release
a new version of the rendering system and wait for the entire 10 million
lines of code to solidify instead of going evolutionarely. (can you say
'galeon'?)

What to say: we all pay the price of Netscape marketing stupidity that
instead of fighting on the market, went to cry to the DoJ about that
redmond bully that stole their candies with a team of 15 people.

This is another reason why I have so much trust in mozilla: no matter
how dumb the Netscape/AOL/TW marketing will be, the community will find
a way to do what's best for itself.

But the real question is: why should the user pay the price of Netscape
marketing blindness?

The log figures of November 2001 say that 10% of the xml.apache.org page
hits were received from NS4 and equivalent browsers.

10% is one out of ten: it's simply too big of a user base to waste. 

And not only because of that, but because of the feeling it permeates:
if they didn't care about supporting me, whatever technology I have, why
should I trust their software for my needs? why should I help them?

Technological purity is only a thin line away from usability blindness.

                                   - o -

Even more important: we technologically-rich lucky people must
understand that that 10% contains part of those technologically
inadvanced people (africa,south-america, middle-east) that more deserve
and need support for their effort to learn and earn a better living thru
the sharing of free information and free software.

Don't ask what the people on the web can do for you (i.e. upgrade their
software to the latest version), but what you can do for the people on
the web.

DISCLAIMER: the result of this discussion sums up to the point that we
cannot forget about our minority of users, no matter how small, because
they are the one who need more help (and can give it back in a distant
future!).

*HOW* this will be done technologically, it's a separate and totally
different concern.

Anyway, Forrest is an effort to make our web site easier to manage and
our information easier to be published and used by users all other the
world (yes, it also means to be ready for i18n)

-- 
Stefano Mazzocchi      One must still have chaos in oneself to be
                          able to give birth to a dancing star.
<stefano@apache.org>                             Friedrich Nietzsche
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