16.242 why the #

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Thu Oct 03 2002 - 01:47:05 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 242.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 06:42:24 +0100
             From: Norman Gray <norman@astro.gla.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: 16.231 why the #? theory vs practice (fwd)


    > stumbled across the following: Many reference sources on HTML will insist
    > that when encoding a/any color, the RGB color value should be preceded by
    > an hash e.g.
    > and yet, quite by accident (memory failure), I omitted the hash in numerous
    > examples. Even so, the colors were rendered, both in IE5.5 and NN4.7 on

    The answer is that it's in principle required, but it's not actually required.

    The definition of the <body> element [1] defines the content of the
    bgcolor attribute thus:

          Colors are given in the sRGB color space as hexadecimal numbers
          (e.g. COLOR="#C0FFC0"), or as one of 16 widely understood color
          names. These colors were originally picked as being the standard 16
          colors supported with the Windows VGA palette.

    And the colours are Black, Silver, ..., Teal, Aqua. Thus the hash is
    required to distinguish colour names from colour specifications (also,
    for a variety of historical reasons, it just `looks right' having a
    hash before hexadecimal numbers).

    Now, there are in fact no colours (from this set at least) which are
    named with just the letters 0-9, A-F, so browsers are written to Do
    The Right Thing if they see a colour specification without the hash, as
    you've discovered. Therefore the hash isn't practically required, in much
    the way that apostrophes aren't practically required in modern english.

    Whether this is in fact the Right Thing or the Wrong Thing is hotly
    debated. It will, however, depend on the browser.

    The W3C, and HTML and browsers in particular, is an excellent example
    of a battleground between theory and practice, with any number of
    short and long term imperatives warring over it, and sometimes even
    warring with themselves. Quoth Roy Fielding:

          [...] I can say with authority that the W3C was created by big
          businesses specifically to prevent their own marketing departments
          from destroying the value inherent in the Web through their own,
          and their competitors', short-sighted, quarterly-revenue-driven
          pursuit of profits. [2]

    All the best,

    (language lawyer and standards junkie)

    [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html32#body (for HTML 3.2: HTML 4 is the
          same, but HTML 2 did not include the bgcolor attribute)

    [2] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-tag/2002Apr/0235.html

    Norman Gray                        http://www.astro.gla.ac.uk/users/norman/
    Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK     norman@astro.gla.ac.uk

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