By the way it’s documenting current browser practices, the HTML 5 specification may inadvertently be encouraging bad web development practices.
One of the big reasons for a lot of the junk that’s currently planned in HTML 5 is that new user agents developed in the future should be able to reasonably handle preexisting content on the Web. The HTML 5 specification will describe what browsers are currently doing with a lot of content which maybe wasn’t considered part of a standard before now, and future web browsers would only have to follow the HTML 5 specification in order to handle much of the legacy content on the Web.
I do recognize the need for this. However, I don’t think this idea is being delivered properly. If we aren’t careful, web developers will end up looking at things like the
embed elements and say, “Well hey, they’re here, they’re standard, why not use them?” I don’t care how many times you say in the specification that authors shouldn’t use them, if people receive even the slightest hint that they’re considered standard, they will.
What I feel needs to happen is a much more clear and physical separation between the parts of the standard meant only for browsers rendering legacy content and the parts meant for web developers following good practices. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as publishing two separate and complimentary standards, but I feel that the legacy stuff should at least be isolated into its own major section of the specification with a fat heading something along the lines of “Crap that browsers support for legacy reasons”. None of this legacy content should pass a webpage validation, and it should be made perfectly clear that use of those features on new webpages is a violation of the standard.
But I somehow have a feeling that this won’t happen. Even the current Web Applications 1.0 specification says that WYSIWYG editors are allowed to use
font tags in their output. It mentions nothing to dissuade the use of the
embed element even though common uses like Flash can be done purely through an
object element in all of today’s major browsers. The specification generally carries an attitude of “if it’s out there right now, it’s valid” which I think will end up only encouraging bad practices and resulting in a lot more problems in the future.