- Doug Schepers (a Montague)
- Anne van Kestern (a Capulet)
- Simon Pieters (a Capulet)
- Henri Sivonen (a Capulet)
- Rich Schwerdtfeger (a Franciscan)
- Aaron Leventhal (an Apothecary)
Over the past few weeks, there has been a long, drawn-out discussion about how to integrate ARIA (an accessibility specification) into both SVG and HTML in a uniform way. There have been two main camps, as there usually are in these matters: the XML advocates, and the HTML5 (WHATWG) advocates. Both sides want to make sure that all content works the same across all browsers, authoring tools, etc. (collectively called User Agents), but they differed in how they thought it should be done.
The XML True Believers have held that the way forward for the Web is to enforce a strict, well-defined syntax for Web languages, and that to extend or combine languages, a differentiating mechanism called “namespaces” would be used. Namespaces in XML are specified to take the form “schepers:doug”. They declared a do-over on HTML, recasting it in the new XML mold (XHTML), and planned for browsers to be stricter on new content, and for authors to have learned their lessons.
The HTML Young Turks came forward with the observation that no matter how well you define a syntax, people will make mistakes (or not know the right way to do things), and that the way to recover from those mistakes is to define error-handling behavior for each kind of mistake; they also believed that since they could now reconcile older “broken” content with new browser behavior, that they were constrained to define behavior that would work in all past browsers, as much as possible, and to degrade gracefully in those that didn’t. But this required a more rigid parsing mechanism that doesn’t work well with extensibility, a problem exacerbated by Internet Explorer’s idiosyncratic and variable (one might even say spasmotic) behavior regarding the colon (“:”), meaning XML Namespaces didn’t work right. Also, the colon has a special meaning in CSS, yet another wrinkle.
So, XHTML and SVG are based on the XML model, and the new HTML5 is based on the new-old model. This difference wasn’t really much of a problem for SVG, though, because SVG and HTML are two different languages…
But of course people want to use them together. (More on that in some other post.)
The obvious way around that is to have two different parsers (a parser is a program that reads a formal syntax and makes a model of it for the browser to act on), and when you encountered SVG inside HTML, you would switch to the stricter parser. HTML would have its model for naming attributes (with no colon), and SVG would have its attributes (with a colon).
But there’s a hitch. ARIA is an accessibility technology meant to work in HTML and XHTML and SVG (and other presentation languages). The functionality for ARIA is defined in its own specification, but it’s not intended to be used on its own… it has to be integrated into a host language. It would be confusing for authors to have to use two different syntaces for the same functionality in different languages.
For example, in SVG you might have:
<g xhtml:role="checkbox" aaa:checked="true">
<rect x="5" y="5" width="20" height="20" rx="5" ry="5"
fill="none" stroke="crimson" stroke-width="2"/>
<text x="30" y="22" font-size="18" fill="crimson">
While in HTML, you would have something like:
<ul role="checkbox" aria-checked="true">
Let the drama unfold…
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