For years I battled with members of the WhatWG and others over elements and attributes in HTML. Months, we’d go back and forth about the usefulness of the details element, or in passionate defense of the beleaguered longdesc.
I wrote hundreds of pages in defense of RDF over Microdata; the virtues of SVG in addition to Canvas; and what the hell does it really mean when we talk about web accessibility?
The real epiphany came when I was reviewing Kurt Cagle’s upcoming book, “HTML5 Graphics with SVG and CSS3”. In the book, Kurt has a chapter on HTML5 where he demonstrated an unconventional HTML web page that blasted apart all I thought I knew about what is a proper web page. It did so because as chaotic seeming as it is, it’s still a valid web page. I couldn’t see the validity of the page, though, because I had been rigidly holding on to a perspective about HTML that really was over, done with, gone.
Never to return.
I had been seeing the web through XHTML colored glasses. In the past, I had been trying to map the precision and order that exemplifies XHTML with the loose but more nuanced flow that is HTML5, and there really is no philosophical compatibility between the two. Kurt’s example forced me to see HTML5 it all its raw essence, for lack of a better word. And what blows me away is realizing that browser companies, as well as many web developers, designers, and folks interested in accessibility prefer HTML5, even at its messiest, over the ordered world of XHTML. They do so not because they embrace chaos, but because they saw something in the future of HTML I didn’t.
HTML is a passion for others, though, and I respect that passion because I respect them. If the people I respect assure me, knowledgeably and with conviction, that using certain elements in a certain way will ensure my web pages are accessible for all across a variety of mediums, I will pay attention. When next I take on the grand redesign of my web sites (typically an itch I must scratch on average every three to four years), I will modify my pages accordingly. I do so not because I believe in the technology, but because I believe in the people.