Issues Freqently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

  1. Why an Issues FAQ?
  2. Couldn't we find a better name for the Guild?
  3. Is Netscape evil or the best thing since sliced bread?
  4. Is HTML a programming language?
  5. Is HTML a form of desktop publishing?
  6. Should I use the Netscape extensions to HTML (or anybody else's)?
  7. Can Guild Members hold pricing discussions in the mailing lists?

  1. Why an Issues FAQ?

    There are several issues that have been beaten to death on the HTML Writers Guild mailing list. New subscribers are often unaware of this and frequently start flame wars over these issues without realizing how often the ground has been covered in the past. This FAQ is an attempt to save some bandwidth and make the Guild mailing list more productive and more pleasant to read.

    If you see any posts re-hashing the issues presented below, ignore them. If you can't ignore them, please respond by private email--NOT on the list.

  2. Couldn't we find a better name for the Guild?

    Possibly, but the Guild, for good or ill, already has a name. Like the Teamsters, our name may not perfectly describe what we do but if we stick with it, people will know who we are--many already do. The Guild has fairly wide recognition and a favorable image under the current name.

    Bickering about the name hurts our reputation and uses up the valuable time of our members.

  3. Is Netscape evil or the best thing since sliced bread?
    OR - Is Microsoft evil or the best thing since sliced bread?

    The Guild agrees to disagree on this. There have been countless messages on these threads and pretty much everything that could be said has been said many times over. Here are the primary points for both sides:


    • Netscape/Microsoft has a very popular browser. Exactly how popular depends on how you measure.
    • Netscape/Microsoft has introduced some innovative HTML tags and attributes that have display some appealing visual effects on their pages.
    • Netscape/Microsoft has an excellent user interface and very good performance. To a great extent these (and the fact that they distributed their browser as a free program) helped make it so popular.
    • Netscape/Microsoft (some say) is so popular that we should consider their version of HTML to be a standard and use their extensions to make our pages look better.


    • Netscape/Microsoft, by bypassing the HTML standards process and adding their own HTML tags and attributes, has created harrowing compatibility problems for some HTML authors and encouraged other browser writers and HTML authors to ignore the standards as well.
    • Some Netscape-specific tags/Microsoft specific tags (e.g. CENTER) are not very well thought out and are not valid HTML. The valid HTML centering tag is <P ALIGN="center">. Some browsers do not recognize CENTER and there is a good chance that those that do now may not in the future, since it is invalid.
    • Using Netscape-specific/Microsoft-specific tags and attributes can make your pages look bad when viewed with other browsers, especially text-mode browsers like Lynx which are used by many people who can't change browsers.
    • Netscape/Microsoft (some say) is an evil force created by people willing to sacrifice HTML standards for money. Unless stopped, they will make it impossible to produce HTML code with any assurance of how it will look on various browsers.


  4. Is HTML a programming language?

    No. The main components of a programming language are data objects and control structures. HTML is a markup language.

  5. Is HTML a form of desktop publishing?

    The short answer is no BUT... HTML was created as a subset of SGML, a more general markup language. It (HTML) was designed to be essentially a logical description of some content with tags giving hints about how the content should be rendered on a WIDE variety of platforms. The intent was that titles, images, various levels of headers, blocks of formatted and unformatted text, lists, etc. would be indicated by tags to let the browser display things appropriately on the user's platform. Search engines and indexing programs could also make use of the tags to help do their work.

    Lately, though, HTML authors have been demanding more control over how their pages are presented and Netscape, Microsoft and other browsers have given it to them. The HTML 3.2 standards also show a move in this direction. Now HTML authors have something to say about image placement, bullet style, backgrounds, centering of various kinds of content, etc. It is very unlikely that any of these changes will be repealed so, in a way, HTML is becoming more like desktop publishing.

    People get emotional about this issue because they see the web as it was originally intended: as a vast storehouse of information. HTML was designed to help people (and their machine agents) navigate the web, not to make pages attractive. Using H5 simply to get a small typeface, for example, violates the "meaning" of H5 which implies an H4 and all the preceding headers.

    Others get emotional about this issue because they see the web as a vast new field opening up for graphic designers and other design professionals. They see the vast potential for new and innovative uses of information and the presentation medium. Using strictly structural HTML neglects the very presentation that might make the information palatable to those who need it.

    Most professional HTML authors want to make their pages as attractive as possible while maintaining validity and standards. If we sacrifice structure for appearance, we'll break the web. If we sacrifice appearance for validity we risk driving away the consumers who are driving the development of new and better internet resources. The bigger the web gets, the more crucial it is that it be navigable.

    Giving authors even more control, Cascading Style Sheets have been incorporated into the 4.0 specification proposal for HTML. This allows authors the most specific control to date, while removing that control to a non-integral part of the presentation process. This allows browsers that function primarily on structure, (such as Lynx) rather than appearance, to present the pages as readably as a browser that uses the new control. Both sides gain.

  6. Should I use the Netscape extensions to HTML or the Microsoft extensions (or anybody else's)?

    The Guild agrees to disagree on this. Some members feel that only strict, valid, HTML should be used. Some members feel that ANY extensions that make your pages look good are permissible. The vast majority of Guild members fall in between these two extremes.

    Most believe that if you create pages that only look good when viewed with a particular browser, many users with other browsers won't stick around to see what you have to offer.

    Most also believe that non-valid HTML tags should be used very carefully and that pages containing them should be test-viewed with many browsers.

    A commonly made observation is that the longer people write HTML, the more valid their HTML becomes as they discover that valid HTML takes much less time to write and to maintain.

    For more information see Gerald Oskoboiny's excellent searchable database of topics discussed on the Guild mailing list at:

    For more information on the Guild and other HTML resources on the World Wide Web, see the HTML Writers Guild web site:

  7. Can Guild Members hold pricing discussions in the mailing lists?

    Short answer: NO.

    Discussions of pricing issues are not allowed and will be cause for immediate removal from the list and possible revocation of your guild membership.

    Keep these points in mind:

    • The HTML Writers Guild will not suggest or recommend fees/prices/wages, and is not involved in "price-fixing" in any manner.
    • Discussion of rates, what to charge, etc. on the list will be sufficient grounds for immediate unsubscription by the list administrator. Such discussions can lead to criminal charges; just one list member can put us all at risk.
    • If you don't like these policies, don't subscribe to the Guild's mailing lists.
    • Any questions regarding this policy may be posted to the Guild' Operations Mailing List hwg-ops.
    • For more information about pricing discussions, see the Pricing Discussions FAQ.

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