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Bug 5777 - referencing subordinate text or asides should be through an alternate attribute
Summary: referencing subordinate text or asides should be through an alternate attribute
Alias: None
Product: HTML WG
Classification: Unclassified
Component: pre-LC1 HTML5 spec (editor: Ian Hickson) (show other bugs)
Version: unspecified
Hardware: All All
: P2 normal
Target Milestone: ---
Assignee: Ian 'Hixie' Hickson
QA Contact: HTML WG Bugzilla archive list
Keywords: NoReply
Depends on:
Reported: 2008-06-20 13:05 UTC by Rob Burns
Modified: 2010-10-04 14:46 UTC (History)
3 users (show)

See Also:


Description Rob Burns 2008-06-20 13:05:43 UTC
The HTML5 draft adds ASIDE and recommends it for the handling of subordinate text like might be displayed as end notes or footnotes. For flexibility and legacy handling it also recommends the use of href to link to such subordinate text. However, referencing subordinate text is distinct from referencing hype linked text and so should be handled through its own attribute. For legacy compatibility, authors might have to include both an A@href and another URI attribute (such as @subtext or @aside). However, even in HTML5 UAs authors will want the flexibility to associate text with other document fragment subordinate text that is not next to or inside the main text.

To understand how referencing subordinate text is different from hyperlinking to related text, consider how authors may want to hyperlink to text even within a segment of text that has a subordinate document fragment associated with it (like a footnote or endnote). By only providing the existing href attribute, we preclude authors from being able to adequately express their meaning.

One way to address this would be to add a new global attribute that takes a URI (or possibly IDREF) value that references subordinate text elsewhere in the document or in a separate document (for URI values).

(see for related information)

[authoring issue, minimal additional implementation, attribute only solution]
Comment 1 Ian 'Hixie' Hickson 2008-06-20 21:53:37 UTC
This was considered before; the suggestions above don't add anything more to the earlier suggestions so I'll just point to those:
Comment 2 Rob Burns 2008-06-21 17:30:33 UTC
(In reply to comment #2)
None of that email you cited responds to the issue raised in this bug: that is that linking or referencing subordinate text is fundamentally different that linking or referencing related text (as in a hyper reference link). Moreover, none of it addresses the problem when a document fragment of text relates to some subordinate text and also contains hyperlinks. This last issue is particularly a problem since HTML5 provides no way for authors to markup such content.
Comment 3 Ian 'Hixie' Hickson 2008-06-21 22:32:30 UTC
Those points were all considered, though possibly in discussion prior to the cited e-mail (in which case my apologies, I've no idea where the discussion would be archived). Fundamentally though, the result is the same -- there are acceptable ways to work around the majority of the limitations, and in the cases where there aren't, the limitations themselves are acceptable limitations to have in HTML5 when we consider where such features would fall in the prioritisation of what we want to add to the language now. We have to be very careful not to add so much that we become Docbook. We're not trying to be a be-all and end-all of typography. The Web is its own thing.

For example, that you can't put a "footnote" inside a link is not a big deal. Instead of writing:

   <a href="a.html">foo bar <footnote> bar is baz </footnote> quux</a> can write:

   <a href="a.html">foo bar quux</a> <a href="#f1" id="r1">[1]</a>
   <p id="f1"><a href="#r1">[1]</a> bar is quux</p>

You might not thing it's perfect, but it's a reasonable compromise because it happens so rarely. We don't have to address every use case, only the major ones.

(Also, subordinate text had better be related text, because if it's not related people will get very confused about why it is subordinate!)
Comment 4 Maciej Stachowiak 2010-03-14 13:14:24 UTC
This bug predates the HTML Working Group Decision Policy.

If you are satisfied with the resolution of this bug, please change the state of this bug to CLOSED. If
you have additional information and would like the editor to reconsider, please reopen this bug. If you would like to escalate the issue to the full HTML Working Group, please add the TrackerRequest keyword to this bug, and suggest title and text for the tracker issue; or you may create a tracker issue yourself, if you are able to do so. For more details, see this document:

This bug is now being moved to VERIFIED. Please respond within two weeks. If this bug is not closed, reopened or escalated within two weeks, it may be marked as NoReply and will no longer be considered a pending comment.