Forum Pseudo Markup Considered Harmful

Various websites allow visitors to leave messages and postings by entering text in forms. To allow users to add links, highlighting, and other enhanced text, the forums provide special tags to go in the text. phpBB, for example, uses [b] and [/b] to enclose bold text. Other forums have their own markup languages, each with its own differences. HTML, of course, provides all of the types of markup supported by the forums. Forum markup languages provide a limited subset of HTML. They serve no purpose -- they duplicate HTML with a different, incompatible syntax.

Take, for starters, the bold tag from above. HTML has a perfectly functional tag to make text bold. <b> and </b> turn text between them bold. Why not use those? Furthermore, HTML has tags to show the meaning of the text, so that it can be rendered properly no matter what the display type. <strong> and </strong> enclose text that should be powerful. This is better than saying that the text should be bold since different browsers or tools will render text differently. Indeed, for a page reader program, bold is meaningless, while strong could be used to speak the enclosed text at a louder volume.

Tags for URLs, email addresses, and more are even more egregiously different from HTML.

There is no good reason for forum markup to be anything other than HTML. The last thing the Internet needs is another incompatible, proprietary language.

Last modified on 17 Jul 2007 by AO

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