Reading List

Is HTML ‘complete’?

Tim Bray recently wrote an interesting post called </html> in which he stated

in­ter­est in work on “vocabulary” (by which they mean the ac­tu­al angle-bracketed thin­gies that go in­to HTML) seems pret­ty lack­ing.

Me, I think HTML is done. Which doesn’t mean I think that the whole Web-programming plat­form is in a good state…

Let’s down tools and fo­cus on more im­por­tant prob­lem­s.

I agree with Tim that fixing the web platform is more important right now than adding more elements to HTML. He cites fixing the things that jQuery, Backbone, Angular, Less, DART et al are trying to fix. Those too, but I’d also cite Service Workers, Web Manifest, device APIs as things that are urgently required to bring some level of feature-parity between web and native.

But I think it’s incorrect to claim HTML is finished. We’ve been there before, with HTML 4.01 published in December 1999 and then considered “finished”. HTML5 added lots more elements, some of which are well-used (20% of the top 100,000 sites use the HTML5 doctype, 12.% of those use <header>, for example).

Some of the HTML5 elements haven’t gained good traction. I’m inclined to agree with Matthew Thomas, who wrote (in 2004!) that new elements need to have some form of User Interface:

One way of improving this situation would be to reduce the number of new elements — forget about <article> and <footer>, for example.

Another way would be to recommend more distinct default presentation for each of the elements — for example, default <article> to having a drop cap, default <sidebar> to floating right, default <header>, <footer>, and <navigation> to having a slightly darker background than their parent element, and default <header>…<li> and <footer>…</li> to inline presentation. This would make authors more likely to choose the appropriate element.

Not every manifestation of UI is visual, however. There are still many gaps in the language that have to be patched with WAI-ARIA; on the webkit blog, James Craig writes

Many of the original features of ARIA (such as dialogs, landmarks, and menus) have been adopted into recent versions of HTML as elements. However, there are interaction patterns, common on the Web since the 1990s, that still have no native support or unreliable rendering support in HTML, such as date pickers, combo boxes, tab sets, data grids, tree controls, and more. Web developers must render all these controls themselves, using custom code or a JavaScript framework.

Steve Faulkner has a list of Aria roles and properties not available in HTML5. I’m not suggesting all should become elements or attributes, but it shows that what people make constantly outpaces the semantics available in HTML.

Since the WHATWG stopped adding new elements, we’ve seen the <main> element added to the language, which —although comparatively new— is used on 5% of the HTML5 sites in the top 100,000. Although it has no visual UI, it hooks into assistive technologies so that users can quickly get to the main content on a page.

Similarly, <picture> and associated responsive images attributes (srcset, sizes, x and w descriptors) have been added to the language.

Brian Kardell, Léonie Watson, and Steve Faulkner are working on a spec for a Panels and Panel Sets Extension that “defines elements and attributes for constructing a panel or collection of panels based on a single interaction paradigm.”

Elsewhere, attempts at adding other useful declarative features to the language are rebuffed. For example, <table sortable> was specified (with 9 years of anecdata from Stuart Langridge) to allow data tables to be natively sorted in the browser (a very common use-case), but implementation was rejected because “Instead of trying to bake so much into the platform someone should create a web components library that supports Hixie’s spec”.

Ah, Web Components – not ready for production any time soon, totally reliant on JavaScript, and so much harder for authors to implement than adding a single attribute.

I’m encouraged by the Extensible Web Manifesto which states

We prefer to enable feature development and iteration in JavaScript, followed by implementation in browsers and standardization… We want web developers to write more declarative code, not less.

Trialling stuff out in JavaScript, and then standardising it and adding it to core HTML/ CSS is the future of standardisation, I think. So, to declare HTML “finished” is, in my opinion, premature.

(Thanks to Steve Faulkner for crunching his dataset —ooh, matron— to provide use stats for <header> and <main>.)

Reading List

The Girl In The Room

A 4 chord ditty that’s under 2 minutes but took ages to record; I moved it from acoustic guitar folk ballad to a chamber-style serenade (“a musical greeting performed for a lover… an evening piece, one to be performed on a quiet and pleasant evening”) because that’s what the lyrics are (kind of) about.

The girl in the room
talks at dusk of musk and sandalwood
Of warm winter mornings
and cool summer nights.
Telling tales without tomorrows
of her yesterdays and ancient times;
of a castle in the birch trees
in the calmness of twilight.

The girl in the room
is thunder-lightning: fiercely beautiful;
weighed down with words, then musical,
with her faces in her moon.
She asks if you could love her
and before you can recover
she needs to be somewhere or other.
Through the trees, the breeze sings tunes.

The girl in the room
talks at sunset in her box of text,
of monsoon rain and games and sex
and the ruins where bluebells bloom.
Lost in feelings like a forest,
there are no certain maps to happiness;
She spills wine on her Chinese dress,
and the breeze brings you tunes.

(Written in Barcelona and Cambodia, recorded in Birmingham, mixed in Santa Clara, California. No bluebells were harmed during the making of this song.)

Words and music © Bruce Lawson, 2015

Posted in my music . Comments Off on The Girl In The Room

Santa Clara, CA

Bah, five hours sleep. Bah overpriced breakfast (but nearest cheap, authentic diner is 5 miles away). Bah suburbia and freeways. Bah inescapable hum of air conditioning. Bah permatanned men named Chet and Dwight with immobile foreheads synergising over 7 am power breakfasts. Bah emails inviting me to meet Vladimir, director of sales, at booth 666 to discuss FelchCloud CDN, ‘our revolutionary cloud-based cloudycloudcloud, taking cloudycloudclouds to The Next Level(tm)’. Bah $4 bottles of water with a little tag printed “hydrate” without even a ‘please’. Bah shiny-toothed shiny-haired empty-souled TV news anchors talking about a lost dog in downtown Santa Nowhere. Bah ‘this life contains chemicals known by the state of california to cause sadness’. Bah “Democracy Boulevard”. Bah the George Bush Memorial Euthanasia Centre. Bah low-cholesterol omelettes made with egg whites. Bah 6 am joggers with bluetooth mobile phone earpieces. Bah.

Reading list

Reading List

Reading List

Reading List

Reading List