I seem to recall that the whole W3C peanut gallery, back when we released the Antichrist, I mean Netscape, totally lost their shit because HTML was supposed to be about MARKUP NOT PRESENTATION DAMMIT, and it was Fundamentally Wrong for people to do presentationy things in HTML: people should use <SHOUT> instead of <B> or whatever. And web page authors had better not complain if browser A laid things out differently than browser B, because all those tags are optional anyway dammit, and nobody made you any promises about how space would be allocated to table cells.
So, that's easy to understand. It's a consistent viewpoint, and while I don't agree that it's the most useful approach, it at least makes some sense.
- (These people also tended to pretend to care deeply about the blind and otherwise disabled. I am sympathetic to the needs of those users, but I can't help but think that those who claimed to speak for the blind were being more than a little disingenuous, just like those Hemp people who present their arguments in terms of their deep and abiding care for the textile industry, when their real motives are... something else entirely.)
And today, it's all about CSS. They gave up on trying to get people to use HTML the ``right'' way, and they invented this new meta-language for describing presentation. Perhaps it was an attempt at misdirection: ``hey, over here! Shiny! Use this instead of abusing <TABLE>! Free beer!''
So now we have this bizarre situation where the anal-retentive W3C crowd (who are now and always have been slaves to the de jure standards, regardless of what reality and the de facto standards are) have converged with the equally anal-retentive (yet philosophically diametrical) ``designer'' contingent (who are now and always have been trying to fit web design into the pigeonhole of the kind of paper-based print-layout design they learned in art school.)
It used to be we had two groups:
- Those who only cared about the text, and if there were tags at all, they could be visually interpreted any which way, since they were primarily there for indexing purposes or something;
Those who wanted to make their HTML look exactly like the mockup they made in Photoshop or Illustrator or Quark.
And today we've got just the one group, and their battle cry seems to be:
- HTML must only be used for semantic markup, but that semantic markup must rigidly adhere to the pixel-accurate positioning in the spec, so that we can still design our web pages in Photoshop!
This is, of course, a complete about-face. It's really quite bizarre. I must have slept through the point when the transition occurred. Either that or it happened in almost complete silence: I would have expected that kind of coup to have left behind rivers of blood and mountains of the dead.