HTML5 Specs W3C

On being an HTML5 deletionist

When last I posted, I was confident I would be finished with my change proposals for the HTML5 by now. Little did I suspect at how strong a reaction my proposals would have, or how emotional the discussions would become. Some of the responses were humorous, such as when I was called a “deletionist”, of all things. Most of the responses, though, were not pleasant.

Ian Hickson, the HTML5 editor, framed his replies rejecting my changes in terms of accessibility and that’s how I responded. As was noted by the wise woman in the group, Laura Carlson, the use of accessibility in this regard was likely a red herring. However, when you write a change proposal, all you can do is respond to the presented arguments. Now, there have been additional arguments, and I’m adjusting my response accordingly.

I was disappointed in how my change proposals were treated. I didn’t expect the HTML5 WG co-chairs to encourage people to respond with one counter-proposal for several of my change proposals. Though each of the impacted proposals was about removing an element from the HTML5 spec, each element is unique. Or at least, I though they were unique. The response leads me to wonder: if people respond with a blanket statement about all elements, how unique are they, really? And how useful?

The Accessibility TF responded in support of keeping the elements, but again, grouped all the elements together in the group response. This following from the groups having marked the original bugs as outside of the group’s interest. That this response was inconsistent didn’t seem to matter—built-in elements are better for accessibility, regardless of the elements.

Back in the HTML WG, I have been met with a block of voices all clamoring, “We want the elements”. My first reaction when met with the fairly strong resistance was to bag my change proposals, and just let the overly large HTML5 specification be that much larger. Such a response, though, would not be honest—I genuinely believe that not only are these elements not useful, their costs exceed whatever perceived benefit they may bring.

Now, a few months later, I’m making final edits to my change proposals in response to the blanket counter-proposal and the one paragraph response from the Accessibility TF. You can read my work for the first change proposal I’m editing, related to deleting the details and summary elements. I’ll post my work in progress for the other change proposals as I finish.

Yours truly,

the Deletionist