Re: Fate of <P> [Was: Toward Closure on HTML]

Martijn Koster (
Fri, 08 Apr 1994 10:35:09 +0100

Roy Fielding writes in response to Dan Connolly:

> All of the current primers could be changed within a single day if
> people on this list get it in their heads to do so. Given the rate
> of change on the Web and the current lack of established authoring
> tools for HTML, I think 95% of HTML authors would be using <P> as a
> container within 3 months.

To be honest I don't think people have a clear idea of how to handle
<P>'s currently; I thought a </p> was a paragraph spearator at one
point... Using <p> as a container is as clear an idea as using it as a
separator, and close to other HTML constructs like <A>,<H2> etc.

> Furthermore, a simple script could be written to reformat most existing
> HTML documents (a generic parser for SGML is unnecessary and less useful
> because it cannot intuit the intentions behind the elements).

Quite. But I think it is more important that the general browsers can
deal with HTML+ structures than to overnight convert every document
out there. That would enable a transistory period in which people can
at least start writing new docs in HTML+.

> > I suggest HTML+ use a new name for this paragraph container element,
> > say PP. When folks mean paragraph separator, they can write <P>. When
> > they mean container, they can write <PP>.
> Sorry, but I think that's a terrible idea. It would give us two syntactic
> forms for a single semantic structure -- that of a paragraph -- where only
> one form is necessary.

Agreed. There is confusion enough without constructs like <pp><p></pp>.

> In addition, a <PP> element would be ignored by ALL existing clients
> whereas using <P> as a container is already accepted by most.

Very true, and I don't see why people get so upset about it. Since I
got my hands on psgml I'm writing HTML+, and use <p></p> as a
container. I even use the optional end-tag which Dave points out is
not needed and makes the doc closer to HTML. Works well enough for
general use.

It would be nice if current browsers would ignore <p> start tags after
things like <LI> and <H2>. People who do think <p> is a paragraph
separator won't put one one after a <LI> or <H2> for a reason other
then 'fixing' unflexible browsers, which is the wrong solution, so I
don't see any reason not to do this. Similarly Mosaic gets confused
about </OPTION> tags in a form. I haven't found any other problems.

With these things fixed people can start writing HTML+, use <p> as a
container, and view old HMTL docs happily. Roy's converting tools (:)
will be able to cleanup old docs. What is so wrong with that?

-- Martijn
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