Simon Willison’s Weblog


Dave on tag soup

12th October 2002

Dave Winer: What is Tag Soup?

They’ve already lost the argument. The Web is tag soup. People use blockquotes to indent. Even though the REST folk argue that it’s anti-Web to do RPC, people do RPC anyway. There’s a never-ending list of complaints, but they can be resolved. That’s why I’m writing this little essaylet.

Sometimes you invent something thinking you know how it’s going to be used, and the world surprises you and uses it for something else. It’s happened to me. I designed my first outliners to be “idea processors.” To make a long story short, more people used outliners to create presentations. Eventually I tired of being right and wanted to make money, so we developed the idea, people loved it and we made our shareholders rich, and everyone lived happily ever after.

I think Dave’s missed some important details on this one. Firstly, just because something can be used for a particular purpose does not make it the right tool for the job—in the case of HTML blockquotes CSS provides a far superior method of achieving indentation without having to add meaningless code to the site’s markup. Dave is right in saying things often end up serving a different purpose to that for which they were intended but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. It sounds like Dave’s outliners were a great tool for presentations without meaning to be—blockquote is not a great tool for indenting; it gives you no control over how large the indent will be and doesn’t even guarantee an indent in non-mainstream browsers.

This is Dave on tag soup by Simon Willison, posted on 12th October 2002.

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