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Fallout from the End of < time >

11.01.2011
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Yesterday we saw quite a few negative responses to Ian Hickson's decision to remove the <time> element from HTML5.

Ben Ward's tweet summarizes the backlash acerbically:

Oh for fucks sake. We may as well just "consider replacing all HTML tags with <derp>"


Craig Grannell at .net recently spoke with Bruce Lawson, who had already rejected the decision for semantic reasons, but added a more standards-specific objection:

I, like many, have been using HTML5 in a range of sites and although I understood the spec was far from finished I had some confidence in using elements like <time> as they simply make sense. To now find that so many sites I’ve built would need to be changed to remain HTML5-compliant makes me question if I jumped on the bandwagon too early... I anticipate this may do some damage to the case of people like me who are fighting for HTML5 against the inertia and proprietary-framework-insanity of corporate organisations

So the end of <time> isn't just bad markup; it's also bad press, at an especially sensitive moment in the (early) adoption of HTML5.

Scott Gilbertson at Webmonkey feels the same way, noting that the '<time> hasn't gained traction' argument doesn't hold water because developers will adopt new elements only spottily until W3C endorses them fully.

In a comment on Gilbertson's article, Brent Logan takes the let's-just-deal-with-facts argument one step further, proposing:

At the risk of replying seriously, why not continue to use it, regardless of the ultimate spec? That is what is being done now.

In other words: W3C can have great ideas, but all that matters is what developers actually do. No matter whether W3C recants those ideas later.

What puzzles me a little is Hickson's reasoning, given his generally pragmatic attitude toward web standards. Hickson split WHATWG, his own standards group, away from W3C in part because he felt that W3C's work on XHTML 2 was ranking linguistic perfection above real-world creation of web applications. But to me this comment, along with this one, for example, look focused on language elegance and simplicity, rather than on use-cases. And maybe I'm just another lazy programmer, but personally I enjoy letting the language do a little extra work for me.

Meanwhile, in keeping with the times, an 'occupy html5' movement has sprung up on twitter (complete with dramatic orange homepage). The pro-<time>rs represent themselves as the majority, and it certainly seems that the majority of responses to the decision have been negative. But perhaps the anti-<time>rs just have less reason to post.

Now that we've had a little time to digest the issue, what do you developers think? Fewer elements with more subdivisions, or more and more semantically rich elements (that might demand extra-customized coding down the road)? or is time unique enough that <data> should be used for everything except time?