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HTML 5: what’s hot, what’s not

As HTML 5 hurtles towards Last Call (or “first last call” as co-chair Sam Ruby called it) there has been a lot of tidying up of the spec.


Farewell bb element

I didn’t know much about the bb element, except that it a button that saved the page as an offline app. It was removed over concerns that it would be scripted or obscured with something else to trick users into pressing it and therefore downloading evils onto their system.

You can do the same stuff with an option in the browser’s chrome that can’t be naughtied with.

Missing you aready, datagrid

Datagrid was a kind of interactive table thingie—think spreadsheets.

It’s gone because the spec wasn’t up to scratch, and precisely no-one had implemented it in the browser (although it is in Adobe Flex and the Dojo toolkit).

I regret that it won’t be available, but expect to see its return in HTML 6.

Toodlepip, cite attribute on article and section

The cite attribute was allowed on these two new elements for syndication purposes. So, if you dragged in a story from an RSS feed, you could wrap it in article or section and use the cite attribute to point back to the source website.

On the principle that hidden metadata is wrong and evil unless someone in the cabal suggested it, the pubdate attribute stays on article and section. I think Jeremy Keith’s suggestion that it be made a boolean attribute of the time element is interesting:

<h1>Lovely article</h1>
<time datetime="2009-08-18" pubdate>
Tuesday 18 August 2009 </time>

This way, you can still give a publication date (the parser would only notice the first pubdate per article or section, but it’s visible metadata, and therefore lovely).

Outstanding issues


The time element is still hamstrung by not being able to markup very ancient dates, or “fuzzy” dates like “December 1935” making it useless for museum or history websites. To me, this is a big disadvantage with the element, for no good reason.


This element has been redefined to represent small print or other side comments. (Small print typically features disclaimers, caveats, legal restrictions, or copyrights. Small print is also sometimes used for attribution, or for satisfying licensing requirements).

Every browser supports the small element surrounding block-level elements, and it would be useful (if not of major significance) for the spec to allow this.


legend is specified as a child of figure and details, although it’s unstyeable in all current browsers. Remy Sharp and I have suggested re-specifying header to replace legend or—better still—dream up a new element. (Bug report, Remy’s blog post “Saving Figure & Detail“).

content element

You can mark up all the peripheral stuff on your webpage with new elements, but you can’t tell assistive technologies where your main content begins. Anne van Kesteren is flirting with the idea of a content or main element.


Stay tuned for an overview of the maelstrom of HTML 5 politics.

And, by the way, if you’re interested in HTML 5, please vote for my South By Southwest HTML 5 panel.

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10 Responses to “ HTML 5: what’s hot, what’s not ”

Comment by George Katsanos

I have been following the public wg mailing list, and (even if I’m a noob) I have this feeling that the procedures followed are not .. “standardized”. No one knows what they should do exactly. (with various “Feedback”s becoming Issues for example)
Other than that, what’s a “first” – “last” call ?! Wordplay! why not just say last call is postponed?
(disclaimer:maybe the answers are obvious to all of you, personally I haven’t yet understood)

Comment by Rich Clark

IMO, another outstanding issue is to clarify the correct usage for aside? It still doesn’t seem clear to me, the cabal seem to say is should be used for sidebars but this doesn’t seem to be explicit in the spec. Thoughts?

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