AN EMAIL from Chairman Hickson resolves an ambiguity in the
nav element of HTML 5.
One of the new things HTML 5 sets out to do is to provide web developers with a standardized set of semantic page layout structures. For example, it gives us a
nav element to replace structures like
This is exciting, logical, and smart, but it is also controversial.
The controversy is best expressed in John Allsopp’s A List Apart article, Semantics in HTML 5, where he worries that the new elements may not be entirely forward-compatible, as they are constrained to today’s understanding of what makes up a page. An extensible mechanism, although less straightforward, would offer more room to grow as the web evolves, Allsopp argues.
We’re pretty sure Ian Hickson, the main force behind HTML 5, has heard that argument, but HTML 5 is proceeding along the simpler and more direct line of adding page layout elements. The WHAT Working Group Mr Hickson chairs has solicited designer and developer opinion on typical web page structures in order to come up with a short list of new elements in HTML 5.
nav is one of these elements, and its description in the spec originally read as follows:
The nav element represents a section of a page that links to other pages or to parts within the page: a section with navigation links. Not all groups of links on a page need to be in a nav element — only sections that consist of primary navigation blocks are appropriate for the nav element.
The perceived ambiguity was expressed by Bruce Lawson (AKA HTML 5 Doctor) thusly:
“Primary navigation blocks” is ambiguous, imo. A page may have two nav blocks; the first is site-wide naviagtion (“primary navigation”) and within-page links, eg a table of contents which many would term “secondary nav”.
Because of the use of the phrase “primary navigation block” in the spec, a developer may think that her secondary nav should not use a
Chairman Hickson has resolved the ambiguity by changing “primary” to “major” and by adding an example of secondary navigation using
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