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Bug 11254 - Say outright that <b>, <i>, <s>, <sup>, <sub>, <br>, and maybe others are typographical and not semantic
Summary: Say outright that <b>, <i>, <s>, <sup>, <sub>, <br>, and maybe others are typ...
Alias: None
Product: HTML WG
Classification: Unclassified
Component: LC1 HTML5 spec (show other bugs)
Version: unspecified
Hardware: Other other
: P3 normal
Target Milestone: ---
Assignee: Ian 'Hixie' Hickson
QA Contact: HTML WG Bugzilla archive list
Depends on:
Reported: 2010-11-07 22:59 UTC by contributor
Modified: 2011-08-04 05:17 UTC (History)
6 users (show)

See Also:


Description contributor 2010-11-07 22:59:02 UTC

Could you just say outright that <b>,  <i>, <s>, <sup>, <sub>, <br>, and maybe
others are typographical and not semantic?  They're in HTML because Unicode
doesn't cover them and CSS can't, because you need to mark up inline where
they go.  They're no more semantic than anything in Unicode, and indeed in
some cases they're part of Unicode.  Trying to pretend these are semantic is
wrong and confusing, particularly the dubious definitions that wind up saying
stuff like "or other spans of text whose typical typographic presentation is
boldened" anyway.  <br> is even more blatant because it actually is in
Unicode, but the Unicode characters aren't usable because of HTML whitespace
rules.	These things are not semantic elements, never have been semantic
elements, and should not be portrayed as semantic elements.

Posted from: by
Comment 1 Henri Sivonen 2010-11-08 14:52:00 UTC
From f2f minutes:
> kennyluck: I found the interpretation of <i> as a semantic element hard to 
> understand. The table says the <i> element is for alternative voice, but the 
> text says...
> ... I don't think technical terms fit into this category; do you alternate 
> your voice when you read a ??? name.
> hsivonen: The reason it's complicated is that it tries to provide a semantic 
> fig leaf to justify keeping <i>.

I agree that the spec should say that <b>, <i>, <u>, <s>, <sup>, <sub>, <br> mean certain typographic effects in the visual media.
Comment 2 Aryeh Gregor 2010-11-08 20:23:29 UTC
Since Anne and Maciej expressed doubts in #whatwg about my implication that Unicode is not semantic: Unicode obviously does not express presentation on the same level as CSS does.  Exact layout of glyphs is entirely up to fonts.  However, it also specifies a number of things that are completely presentational, including characters such as line breaks and non-breaking spaces, and algorithms like the line-breaking algorithm.  Likewise, HTML includes some aspects that are not semantic but are realistically necessary anyway, because they're needed somewhere and can't be put in CSS.  It should not try to pretend they're semantic.

Of course, you can always argue that anything is "semantic" for a sufficiently broad meaning of "semantic".  For the purposes of HTML, we can say that "semantic" at least implies media independence, and none of the elements I mention here are media-independent.  E.g., the correct spoken presentation of "H<sub>2</sub>O" is "H2O", but the correct spoken presentation of "&phi;<sub>x</sub>" is probably "phi sub x".  Likewise, if <i> is used for a dream or thought, it should probably be pronounced differently, but not if it's used for a ship name.

Some elements are by their nature typographic and not media-independent, and the spec should acknowledge this fact.
Comment 3 Ian 'Hixie' Hickson 2010-12-29 08:30:59 UTC
EDITOR'S RESPONSE: This is an Editor's Response to your comment. If you are satisfied with this response, 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:

Status: Rejected
Change Description: no spec change
Rationale: I reject the premise of the request. These elements are semantic, and using them for presentational typographical effects is invalid.
Comment 4 Aryeh Gregor 2010-12-29 20:01:18 UTC
Sigh, whatever.  It was worth a try.
Comment 5 Michael[tm] Smith 2011-08-04 05:17:08 UTC
mass-move component to LC1