[webkit-dev] Fwd: Adding <main> element to WebCore

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Tue Nov 27 16:22:20 PST 2012

On Wed, 28 Nov 2012, Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> I've not seen any place where @role=main was misused and I think the 
> same would be the case for <main>.

ARIA is used by very few authors, and those authors are, by and large, 
much more competent than average. ARIA therefore tends to be used to a 
much higher level of quality than most elements.

> At least I don't see why it would be misused any more than the other 
> semantic elements that were introduced such as <article>, <header> and 
> <aside>

It would probably be used about as well, maybe a little less well than 
them because the idea of what is "main" varies from author to author (e.g. 
in the sites you analysed on the WHATWG list, as well as in many that 
others have mentioned before, id="main" and id="content" often include 
things like some navigation, some headers, some sidebars, some footers).

> so I don't see why they would make sense to be supported while <main> 
> doesn't.

The use case for e.g. <header> is mainly one of maintenance and styling: 
lots of people style their headers very specifically. In general it 
doesn't matter if one author marks his navigation as being part of his 
header and another marks his navigation using <nav>; the result is the 
same: they are clearly marked in the source, they can be styled, and they 
can be skipped. If one author doesn't use it, or even if most authors use 
it incorrectly, it doesn't mean that other authors can't use it.

The use case for <main> is accessibility navigation. If authors use it 
incorrectly, the feature *doesn't work*. The element becomes pointless. 
Combined with the way that the concept of "main" varies from author to 
author, you dramatically increase the likelihood that the element won't 
satisfy its stated purpose. Also, since few authors ever test how their 
page works in ATs, they won't know that there's a problem.

This is like the difference between <a href=""> and <img longdesc="">. If 
many authors don't use <a href=""> right, big deal; their pages don't work 
well, but it doesn't stop other authors from using it. If many authors use 
longdesc="" incorrectly, however, it means users who try to use the 
feature quickly stop expecting it to work and they give up and even pages 
that use it correctly lose out. And, since few authors ever test how their
page works in ATs, they don't know that there's a problem, and so the 
feature is _more_ likely to be broken than <a href="">.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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