The webmentions spec is now being published as a w3c working draft
XHTML 2 was going to allow use of the
href attribute on any element, allowing for block level anchors and eliminating repetition of the same anchor in some cases or unnecessary additional tags in others. This really made sense, since the
<a> tag is just a span, but the only span with an added ability of linking to somewhere else. There is really no special semantic meaning to the
<a>, and all links on a page could be found in parsing by finding tags with the
href. In the early days of the development of HTML 5, the “href anywhere” approach was discussed, and I was excited thinking it was going to be part of HTML 5. At the time, that was the most interesting thing about HTML 5 to me. But “href anywhere” would mean all previous browsers would not be able to see links at all (besides for the ones put in
<a> tags for some reason), so the idea was scrapped. Instead, the HTML 5 creators took advantage of an against-spec ability that current browsers already had: block level anchors. Browsers at least back to IE 6 will happily make “flow content” placed in an
<a> tag into a link.
I was somewhat unhappy that we had to kowtow to current browsers by preventing such a wonderful ability as href’s on any tag, but the backwards compatibility thing is huge in real world development (though I would have just done some server side browser sniffing to output the
<a>‘s in appropriate places for incompatible browsers) and the solution handles most use cases, though with a bit of extra markup. Over time, I began thinking that perhaps I could just use
<a>‘s in place of any tags that have no semantic meaning (ie
<span>), only using
href when required and thus have
href available most anywhere.