Tag characters and in-line graphics (from Tag characters)

John idou747 at gmail.com
Sun May 31 07:33:44 CDT 2015

Yes, Asmus good post. But I don’t really think HTML, even a subset, is really the right solution. I’m reminded of the design for XML itself, it is supposed to start with a header that defines what that XML will conform to. Those definitions contain some unique identifiers of that XML schema, which happens to be a URL. The URL is partly just a convenient unique identifier, but also, the XML engine, if it doesn’t know about that schema could go to that URL and download the schema, and check that the XML  conforms to that schema.

Similarly, imagine a text format that had a header with something like:


Now all the characters following in the text will interpret characters that start with 12345 with respect to that character set. What would you find at at facebook.com/charsets/pusheen-the-cat-emoji/? You might find bitmaps, truetype fonts, vector graphics, etc. You might find many many representations of that character set that your rendering engine could cache for future use. The text format wouldn’t be reliant on today’s favorite rendering technology, whether bitmap, truetype fonts, or whatever. Right now, if you go to a website that references unicode that your platform doesn’t know about, you see nothing. If a format like this existed, character sets would be infinitely extensible, everybody on earth could see characters, even if their platform wasn’t previously aware of them, and the format would be independent of today’s rendering technologies. Let’s face it, HTML5 changes every few years, and I don’t think anybody wants the fundamental textual representation dependant on an entire layout engine. And also the whole range of what HTML5 can do, even some subset, is too much information. You don’t necessarily want your text to embed the actual character set. Perhaps that might be a useful option, but I think most people would want to uniquely identify the character set, in a way that an engine can download it, but without defining the actual details itself. Of course, certain charsets would probably become pervasive enough that platforms would just include them for convenience. Emojis by major messaging platforms. Maybe characters related to specialised domains like, I don’t know, mapping or specialised work domains or whatever, But without having to be subservient to the central unicode committee.

As someone who is a keen user of Facebook messenger, and who sees them bring out a new set of emoji almost every week, I think the world will soon be totally bored with the plain basic emoji that unicode has defined.


On Sun, May 31, 2015 at 9:06 PM, Asmus Freytag (t)
<asmus-inc at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

> John,
> reading this discussion, I agree with your reaductio ad absurdum of 
> infinitely nested HTML.
> But I think you are onto something with your hypothetical example of the 
> "subset that works in ALL textual situations".
> There's clearly a use case for something like it, and I believe many 
> people would intuitively agree on a set of features for it.
> What people seem to have in mind is something like "inline" text. 
> Something beyond a mere stream of plain text (with effectively every 
> character rendered visibly), but still limited in important ways by 
> general behavior of inline text: a string of it, laid out, must wrap and 
> line break, any objects included in it must behave like characters 
> (albeit of custom width, height and appearance), and so on. Paragraph 
> formatting, stacked layout, header levels and all those good things 
> would not be available.
> With such a subset clearly defined, many quirky limitations might no 
> longer be necessary; any container that today only takes plain text 
> could be upgraded to take "inline text". I can see some inline 
> containers retaining a nesting limitation, but I could imagine that it 
> is possible to arrive at a consistent definition of such inline format.
> Going further, I can't shake the impression that without a clean 
> definition of an inline text format along those lines, any attempts at 
> making stickers and similar solutions "stick" are doomed to failure.
> The interesting thing in defining such a format is not how to represent 
> it in HTML or CSS syntax, but in describing what feature sets it must 
> (minimally) support. Doing it that way would free existing 
> implementations of rich text to map native formats onto that minimally 
> required subset and to add them to their format translators for HMTL or 
> whatever else they use for interchange.
> Only with a definition can you ever hope to develop a processing model. 
> It won't be as simple as for plain text strings, but it should be able 
> to support common abstractions (like iteration by logical unit). It 
> would have to support the management of external resources - if the 
> inline format allows images, custom fonts, etc. one would need a way to 
> manage references to them in the local context.
> If your skeptical position proves correct in that this is something that 
> turns out to not be tractable, then I think you've provided conclusive 
> proof why stickers won't happen and why encoding emoji was the only 
> sensible decision Unicode could have taken.
> A./
> On 5/30/2015 7:14 AM, John wrote:
>> Hmm, these "once entities" of which you speak, do they require 
>> javascript? Because I'm not sure what we are looking for here is 
>> static documents requiring a full programming language.
>> But let's say for a moment that html5 can, or could do the job here. 
>> Then to make the dream come true that you could just cut and paste 
>> text that happened to contain a custom character to somewhere else, 
>> and nothing untoward would happen, would mean that everything in the 
>> computing universe should allow full blown html. So every Java Swing 
>> component, every Apple gui component, every .NET component, every 
>> windows component, every browser, every Android and IOS component 
>> would allow text entry of HTML entities. OK, so let's say everyone 
>> agrees with this course of action, now the universal text format is HTML.
>> But in this new world where anywhere that previously you could input 
>> text, you can now input full blown html, does that actually make 
>> sense? Does it make sense that you can for example, put full blown 
>> HTML inside a H1 tag in html itself? That's a lot of recursion going 
>> on there. Or in a MS-Excel cell? Or interspersed in some otherwise 
>> fairly regular text in a Word document?
>> I suppose someone could define a strict limited subset of HTML to be 
>> that subset that makes sense in ALL textual situations. That subset 
>> would be something like just defining things that act like characters, 
>> and not like a full blown rendering engine. But who would define that 
>> subset? Not the HTML groups, because their mandate is to define full 
>> blown rendering engines. It would be more likely to be something like 
>> the unicode group.
>> And also, in this brave new world where HTML5 is the new standard text 
>> format, what would the binary format of it be? I mean, if I have the 
>> string of unicode characters <IMG would that be HTML5 image definition 
>> that should be rendered as such? Or would it be text that happens to 
>> contain greater than symbol, I, M and G? It would have to be the 
>> former I guess, and thereby there would no longer be a unicode symbol 
>> for the mathematical greater than symbol. Rather there would be a 
>> unicode symbol for opening a HTML tag, and the text code for greater 
>> than would be > Never again would a computer store > to mean 
>> greater than. Do we want HTML to be so pervasive? Not sure it deserves 
>> that.
>> And from a programmers point of view, he wants to be able to iterate 
>> over an array of characters and treat each one the same way, 
>> regardless if it is a custom character or not. Without that kind of 
>> programmatic abstraction, the whole thing can never gain traction. I 
>> don't think fully blown HTML embedded in your text can fulfill that. A 
>> very strictly defined subset, possibly could. Sure HTML5 can RENDER 
>> stuff adquately, if the only aim of the game is provide a correct 
>> rendering. But to be able to actually treat particular images embedded 
>> as characters, and have some programming library see that abstraction 
>> consistently, I'm not sure I'm convinced that is possible. Not without 
>> nailing down exactly what html elements in what particular 
>> circumstances constitute a "character".
>> I guess in summary, yes we have the technology already to render 
>> anything. But I don't think the whole standards framework does 
>> anything to allow the computing universe to actually exchange custom 
>> characters as if they were just any other text. Someone would actually 
>> have to  work on a standard to do that, not just point to html5.
>> On Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 5:08 am, Philippe Verdy 
>> <verdy_p at wanadoo.fr <mailto:verdy_p at wanadoo.fr>>, wrote:
>>     2015-05-29 4:37 GMT+02:00 John <idou747 at gmail.com
>>     <mailto:idou747 at gmail.com>>:
>>         "Today the world goes very well with HTML(5) which is now the
>>         bext markup language for document (including for inserting
>>         embedded images that don’t require any external request”
>>         If I had a large document that reused a particular character
>>         thousands of times, would this HTML markup require embedding
>>         that character thousands of times, or could I define the
>>         character once at the beginning of the sequence, and then
>>         refer back to it in a space efficient way?
>>     HTML(5) allows defining *once* entities for images that can then
>>     be reused thousands of times without repeting their definition.
>>     You can do this as well with CSS styles, just define a class for a
>>     small element. This element may still be an "image", but the
>>     semantic is carried by the class you assign to it. You are not
>>     required to provide an external source URL for that image if the
>>     CSS style provides the content.
>>     You may also use PUAs for the same purpose (however I have not
>>     seen how CSS allows to style individual characters in text
>>     elements as these characters are not elements, and there's no
>>     defined selector for pseudo-elements matching a single character).
>>     PUAs are perfectly usable in the situation where you have embedded
>>     a custom font in your document for assigning glyphs to characters
>>     (you can still do that, but I would avoid TrueType/OpenType for
>>     this purpose, but would use the SVG font format which is valid in
>>     CSS, for defining a collection of glyphs).
>>     If the document is not restricted to be standalone, of course you
>>     can use links to an external shared CSS stylesheet and to this SVG
>>     font referenced by the stylesheet. With such approach, you don't
>>     even need to use classes on elements, you use plain-text with very
>>     compact PUAs (it's up to you to decide if the document must be
>>     standalone (embedding everything it needs) or must use external
>>     references for missing definitions, HTML allows both (and SVG as
>>     well when it contains plain-text elements).
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