September HTML5 spec changes

by .

September being one month before the HTML5 spec goes to last call in October, there’s been a few significant changes to the HTML5 spec that we wanted to briefly share with our patients.

Clarification over section and article

The spec has been clarified to help authors correctly choose between when to use section and when to use article, and Bruce’s section post has also been updated.

footer now works like header

This was a big one and causing confusing to people coming to HTML5 for the first time. Originally you couldn’t include a nav element inside a footer, or a section.

Now the spec has been changed to match the header element.

details and figure saved

Instead of using legend, which didn’t work, Jeremy suggested (although slightly tongue in cheek) to use dt for the title and dd for the body. Ian Hickson agreed, and it’s in


 <dd><video src=""></video>
 <dt>Exhibit B. The <cite>Rough Copy</cite> trailer.

aside has better examples

The documentation has been updated to specify better examples of how the aside element can be used.

Better examples help us authors understand how it can be used.

Dropped Elements

The following elements have been dropped from the HTML5 spec (though bb and datagrid were some time ago, and datagrid has been postponed rather than dropped entirely):


We’ll be posting in more detail about some of these changes, and as further changes come out of the editing process we’ll no doubt keep you all up to date, either via our Twitter account (which you should follow) or feel free to let us know too!

30 Responses on the article “September HTML5 spec changes”

  • I think that should be .ogv, not .mov. ;-)

  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Henri – hmm – the spec’s been updated since I wrote this (yesterday) and the example’s been removed already!!! :-)

  • Kelvin J says:

    Has dialog really been removed in favour of using and <b> tags?


  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Kelvin – the spec change did original say the conversations could be marked up using the b element, but it’s been since removed.

    I know Jeremy is arguing the case for the cite element to get back in there as the right way to markup the person speaking in the conversation.

  • Noooooooo! Not dialog! I actually had many uses and plans for that! My heart breaks.

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  • Is DD required for figure or details?

  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Rodrigo – both, which I actually think is slightly superfluous, but it means we have a solution to the legend issue and we get to keep details and figure.

  • Aleksey says:

    So the <legend> was no more than just a legend…. LOL
    It was a bit of a fun challenge, though not workable in real life

  • kelvinj says:

    @Remy It’s a shame that steps have been taken to make HTML5 into a more descriptive language (rather than a prescriptive language), yet the powers-that-be have chosen to remove the description of something that is used by a huge portion of websites… discussion.

    I personally don’t like the idea of using cite. As a publisher of a website, it would feel like changing the meaning comments from:

    – something that X said


    – something that I’m saying that X said

    Maybe I’m over-thinking! :)

  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Kelvinj – if you need a decent point of reference, check out pretty much any wordpress site (including this one): all the author names are marked up using the cite element, saying that X said this comment.

  • kelvinj says:

    Can anyone point to the discussion that took place which lead to being dropped?

  • kelvinj says:

    @Remy thanks. I can see how it would be used, it just doesn’t sit well with me.

  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Kelvinj – personally, I’m not sure, but @brucel may know (or even Ian if he’s checking out these comments). None the less, I’d say take a look at the IRC logs and the mailing lists, both can be found from here:

  • John Faulds says:

    So it seems that it is now OK to use aside for what most sites would refer to as a sidebar rather than the more limited scope of use it had before.

  • Aleksey says:

    We has a potential bug in the new <details>: <dd> does not allow nested <dt> or <dd> elements, therefore no nested <details>. So far, I have only tried Opera and Firefox, and both put the nested <dt> and <dd> outside of the nested <details> in the DOM. I wonder what other elements are not allowed inside <dd> by browsers.

  • Ian Hickson says:

    This is fixed by the new parser rules, so it’s not a big deal.

  • @Ian Hickson: That not a very pretty way to markup dialog. Seriously, there is a need for . Interviews, plays, comics, long conversational quotes, instant messager transcripts… Paragraph tags will not suffice!

    Something like this would be grand:

    June 10th 2009 11:30 am
    I want dialog tags, yeah!
    Ian Hickson
    Alas, you just missed them.

    A girl can dream… too bad!

  • Well darn, my tags were removed.

  • Ian Hickson says:

    “p” elements seem to be the cowpath most people use:

    Why would it not suffice?

  • Alohci says:

    @Ian Hickson: That list does show a fair variation – six different methods, none of which, curiously, are the HTML4 recommended “dl”. To me this shows author confusion, nobody knows what the best way of doing this is.

    I certainly never thought of using “dl” for dialogues – it’s always meant a definition list to me, and on the basis of Jonas’s sample, everyone else has a similar view.

    It would be great if HTML 5 could do better than what has gone before. There’s no question that dialogues are an extremely common idiom on Web 2.0 and therefore some focused markup for it would not be out of place.

    I like the idea that AT could use different voices for different speakers, though I don’t know whether that would ever happen.

    It does seem that markup for dialogue is being designed backwards though, trying to fit in existing tags first rather than working out exactly what idealised (i.e. without browser implementation limitations) markup would look like – for example, how should stage directions be included, multiple voices speaking simultaneously, etc – and only when we’ve got a full set of use cases, then try and fit suitable tags to meet those use cases.

  • Ian Hickson says:

    I agree that it makes sense to have an element for dialogue — after all, I had added one just for that! :-)

    However, while you and I agree with this, it’s not clear that the evidence really supports the need for this. People are using the “p” element for conversations pretty successfully, and there’s a lot of pushback (e.g. from Microsoft, IIRC) about implementing elements for this purpose.

    That doesn’t mean we’ll never have one. But maybe it’s worth just waiting for the next version before adding it. HTML5 adds a lot of new stuff. Let’s see how it goes before adding more. :-)

  • kelvinj says:

    @Ian Hickson – hang on a second, that argument doesn’t stand up. Evidence of current behaviour will show you that people are using the “div” element successfully for, well, loads of the stuff that has been added. So, what is Microsoft’s (& others) argument for keeping figure but ditching dialog?

    I would genuinely like to know, not just trolling.



  • Ian Hickson says:

    One of Microsoft’s comments was:

    We’ve looked at a lot of current practices over time. One we’ve seen a lot is DIV elements with class=”…” attributes, and for some of the most common values, we’ve added new elements to handle the case (SECTION, NAV, etc). Another is really complicated JavaScript and DOM constructs for date controls; we’ve added type=”date” to the INPUT element.

    However, as much as I personally would like an element for conversations, the reality is that we haven’t found authors having much trouble with dialogue and the like. They seem quite content to use the P element and don’t seem to be suffering for it. This is in sharp contrast to the other cases I listed.

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  • Robson Sobral says:

    Probably, anybody will see this comment. This conversation is old, but… My idea came last night.

    Why don’t forget the “dialog” element and use a new attribute on “p” element to inform ‘who’ is speaking? Using :before pseudo selector we can make a simple dialog to be transformed into a script, with the name of the character above the phrases.

    Please, forgive my bad English.

  • Roy says:

    I’m sad that there hasn’t really been any clear winner for how to mark up a dialog. I’m not even talking creating new elements for this purpose, but just using a p tag doesn’t quite work either.

    I suppose if I had to pick one of the options here, it’d be to go with the “” element even though it’s not necessarily prescribed in html5. But I still can’t help thinking that marking up people’s names is so woefully unassisted by elements, yet we have to do it all the time. Why haven’t we arrived at a better solution?

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