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The death of the semantic web pt. II
A while ago I wrote the first part of this series and examined a proper use of the non standard <blink> tag.

I promised a follow up then and here it is. Rejoice oh fellow coders!

There is a problem facing the semantic web and in my perception it's this: there are loads and loads of tags and attributes to tags that are hardly used. Modern webdesign is moving at a fairly rapid rate, hindered somewhat by Internet Explorer's inadequacies, sure, but moving along anyway. Now to be sure the semantic web initiative focuses almost entirely on technologies such as RDF, OWL and other XML type stuff, but XHTML is part of that family too and is designed to be an intermediate stage.

There is a disturbing trend however. Instead of deeply nested tables we now seem to be faced with deeply nested <div> tags. Instead of using more appropriate tags we see stuff like <span class="abbreviation">QT</span> and so on. Why not just use the <abbr> tag? It's what it's there for after all: <abbr title="QuickTime">QT</abbr>. Here's how it renders: QT. This will work in any browser, although some may not visually display anything by showing a tooltip or something like it with the full expansion.
There are loads more examples to give, but I'll leave it at this one for now, for fear of foaming at the mouth.

Modern webdesign is not using the tags and attributes that are there and have been there for years. This was illustrated to me a few weeks ago when someone asked me, pointing to a list of tags like <strike>, <abbr>, <samp>, <code> and the like, and said: "no-one's using these any more are they, we can ignore them".

The fact is that hardly anyone is using these perfectly valid tags and is cobbling together hacks and workarounds. This saddens me, but I won't take it lying down. If we are ever going to get to the semantic web we are going to have to use the stuff that's already there.

Just because not all browsers do anything with a tag or attribute doesn't mean they're useless. Some day too these browsers will catch on. Just because Safari didn't do anything with the <fieldset> tag when first released didn't mean it was useless and that I didn't use it.
Just because the current version of Safari doesn't do anything with the <label> tag doesn't mean it's useless.

I'm in for the long haul. Sometime browsers will catch up to the HTML specs and support the tags and their attributes that have been there for years. They will do so because they make sense. They will do so because they convey meaning and structure, as well as enhanced usability.


Herewith a new one I encountered just this week and have immediately adopted:
<input type="text" name="username" value="Current username" readonly="readonly" />
Paste this into a form and notice how you can't edit the textfield. It will get submitted when posting the form though, unlike when using the disabled attribute.

There's loads more examples of under-used HTML I could give but I'll leave them for another day.

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