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Results of Questionnaire ISSUE-155: Make border attribute conforming on table element - Straw Poll for Objections

The results of this questionnaire are available to anybody.

This questionnaire was open from 2011-03-27 to 2011-04-04.

6 answers have been received.

Jump to results for question:

  1. Objections to the Change Proposal to enable all users to distinguish the cells of a table.
  2. Objections to the Change Proposal for no change since there is no use case that requires the changes in scope for this issue

1. Objections to the Change Proposal to enable all users to distinguish the cells of a table.

We have a Change Proposal to enable all users to distinguish the cells of a table. If you have strong objections to adopting this Change Proposal, please state your objections below.

Keep in mind, you must actually state an objection, not merely cite someone else. If you feel that your objection has already been adequately addressed by someone else, then it is not necessary to repeat it.


Responder Objections to the Change Proposal to enable all users to distinguish the cells of a table.
John Foliot
Ian Hickson This proposal makes no sense. Nothing is stopping non-CSS UAs from rendering tables as appropriate for tables. All it does is further encourage people to write layout tables by suggesting that there are valid reasons to distinguish tables _with_ borders from tables _without_ borders, which there are not.
Tab Atkins Jr. I object to this change proposal. If there is a problem with displaying table borders in non-CSS UAs, they can draw the table borders themselves. They're non-CSS, so there's nothing telling them not to.

Lynx, for example, already draws table borders automatically.

In addition, if this is a generic problem (that is, if tables in non-CSS UAs should basically always have borders), then tying border-drawing to an optional attribute which is *not* present on the vast majority of legacy tables is completely the wrong solution.
Aryeh Gregor
Theresa O'Connor
Leif Halvard Silli

2. Objections to the Change Proposal for no change since there is no use case that requires the changes in scope for this issue

We have a Change Proposal to make no change because there is no use case that requires the changes in scope for this issue.

Keep in mind, you must actually state an objection, not merely cite someone else. If you feel that your objection has already been adequately addressed by someone else, then it is not necessary to repeat it.


Responder Objections to the Change Proposal for no change since there is no use case that requires the changes in scope for this issue
John Foliot I object to this Change Proposal on the following grounds:

* Removing the border attribute on tables breaks backward compatibility, allegedly one of the key design principles of HTML5:
"We don’t need to predict the future. When the future comes, we can just fix HTML again. It’s more important that HTML caters to the present than to the future." - Ian Hickson http://www.zeldman.com/2009/07/13/html-5-nav-ambiguity-resolved/#comment-44691

* This Change Proposal has no factual evidence provided to support any of it's assertions - it simply presumes that a majority are in agreement with the editor's assertions. No proof has been offered to show that retaining @border for tables causes harm to users, authors, or implementors. No proof has been offered to show that removing the @border attribute will benefit users, authors or implementors.

* This Change Proposal does nothing to address the concerns or points raised in the alternative Change Proposal to this issue.

* Transitioning authors away from using @border on tables should be an educational effort; evolution not revolution - http://www.w3.org/TR/html-design-principles/#evolution-not-revolution
Ian Hickson
Tab Atkins Jr.
Aryeh Gregor Since this Change Proposal is short, I'll respond line-by-line:

"There is no use case that requires the changes in scope for this issue."

There is a use-case: making it clear to non-CSS user-agents that a table is not presentational, so they can draw it the way a non-presentational table should be drawn, which means with borders. The large majority of presentational tables will want no borders, while the large majority of non-presentational tables will want borders. Ideally, authors would not use presentational tables, but in reality some do, and user-agents need some way to reliably detect this before they can safely draw borders.

For a real-world user who was hurt by the fact that MediaWiki stopped including border=1 on some tables, for validity reasons, see this bug report (which is indirectly referred to from the other Change Proposal):


"Non-CSS UAs, syndication systems, and editors can already draw table borders on tables, so adding a presentational attribute for this purpose adds nothing for them."

This is not true. The historical default rendering of tables has always been without borders, so legacy constraints mean any user agent must render them this way if it wants to render webpages correctly. The HTML5 rendering section explicitly requires this default rendering for visual user-agents, and it says "User agents that use other presentation mechanisms can derive their expected behavior by translating from the CSS rules given in this section." Thus non-CSS user agents are also required to display tables with no borders.

To give a concrete example of why drawing tables on borders by default is not practical, try running this bookmarklet on any table-heavy page:

javascript:(function() { var tables = document.querySelectorAll("table"); for (var i = 0; i < tables.length; i++) tables[i].border = "1"; })()

I didn't find any really good site to try it out on in a quick hunt, but amazon.com and craigslist.org demonstrate the point clearly enough (even if not as extremely as some pages that I could probably find given some time).

"As with past issues of a similar vein, if there are problems with CSS,
they should be addressed in CSS, not in HTML."

The problems here are not with CSS. The use-case is user-agents that do not display CSS, or cases where tables and copied and pasted or syndicated so that CSS rules are lost.

In reply to Tab Atkins' objection to the other change proposal: I just tested in Lynx, and it does not draw table borders by default. Specifically, the markup

<!DOCTYPE html>

displays as

Hi Hi

when I use "lynx http://..." to fetch the page on Ubuntu 10.04.
Theresa O'Connor Authors need to be able to mark up data tables in a readable manner & such markup should survive syndication. Currently, <table border> is the only way for authors do do so. The fact that <table> defaults to having no borders is indeed a bug in the Web platform, but it is a bug that will never go away due to the large quantity of legacy content that requires <table>'s default rendering. Because such legacy content may be syndicated, it is unreasonable to expect feed readers to change their default <table> rendering.
Leif Halvard Silli I posted my objection to www-archive: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2011Apr/0043.html

For direct access to the attachment HTML document of that message, please visit this link:

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  2. Patrick D F Ion <ion@ams.org>
  3. Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>
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  13. Don Brutzman <brutzman@nps.edu>
  14. T.V. Raman <raman@google.com>
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  16. Daniel Glazman <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>
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  18. Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
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  21. Katsuhiko Momoi <momoi@google.com>
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  28. David Hyatt <hyatt@apple.com>
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