HTML 5

Draft Recommendation — 7 July 2008

3. Semantics and structure of HTML documents

3.1 Introduction

This section is non-normative.

An introduction to marking up a document.

3.2 Documents

Every XML and HTML document in an HTML UA is represented by a Document object. [DOM3CORE]

3.2.1 Documents in the DOM

Document objects are assumed to be XML documents unless they are flagged as being HTML documents when they are created. Whether a document is an HTML document or an XML document affects the behavior of certain APIs, as well as a few CSS rendering rules. [CSS21]

A Document object created by the createDocument() API on the DOMImplementation object is initially an XML document, but can be made into an HTML document by calling document.open() on it.

All Document objects (in user agents implementing this specification) must also implement the HTMLDocument interface, available using binding-specific methods. (This is the case whether or not the document in question is an HTML document or indeed whether it contains any HTML elements at all.) Document objects must also implement the document-level interface of any other namespaces found in the document that the UA supports. For example, if an HTML implementation also supports SVG, then the Document object must implement HTMLDocument and SVGDocument.

Because the HTMLDocument interface is now obtained using binding-specific casting methods instead of simply being the primary interface of the document object, it is no longer defined as inheriting from Document.

interface HTMLDocument {
  // resource metadata management
  [PutForwards=href] readonly attribute Location location;
  readonly attribute DOMString URL;
           attribute DOMString domain;
  readonly attribute DOMString referrer;
           attribute DOMString cookie;
  readonly attribute DOMString lastModified;
  readonly attribute DOMString compatMode;
           attribute DOMString charset;
  readonly attribute DOMString characterSet;
  readonly attribute DOMString defaultCharset;
  readonly attribute DOMString readyState;

  // DOM tree accessors
           attribute DOMString title;
           attribute DOMString dir;
           attribute HTMLElement body;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection images;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection embeds;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection plugins;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection links;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection forms;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection anchors;
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection scripts;
  NodeList getElementsByName(in DOMString elementName);
  NodeList getElementsByClassName(in DOMString classNames);

  // dynamic markup insertion
           attribute DOMString innerHTML;
  HTMLDocument open();
  HTMLDocument open(in DOMString type);
  HTMLDocument open(in DOMString type, in DOMString replace);
  Window open(in DOMString url, in DOMString name, in DOMString features);
  Window open(in DOMString url, in DOMString name, in DOMString features, in boolean replace);
  void close();
  void write(in DOMString text);
  void writeln(in DOMString text);

  // user interaction
  Selection getSelection();
  readonly attribute Element activeElement;
  boolean hasFocus();
           attribute boolean designMode;
  boolean execCommand(in DOMString commandId);
  boolean execCommand(in DOMString commandId, in boolean showUI);
  boolean execCommand(in DOMString commandId, in boolean showUI, in DOMString value);
  boolean queryCommandEnabled(in DOMString commandId);
  boolean queryCommandIndeterm(in DOMString commandId);
  boolean queryCommandState(in DOMString commandId);
  boolean queryCommandSupported(in DOMString commandId);
  DOMString queryCommandValue(in DOMString commandId);
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection commands;
};

Since the HTMLDocument interface holds methods and attributes related to a number of disparate features, the members of this interface are described in various different sections.

3.2.2 Security

User agents must raise a security exception whenever any of the members of an HTMLDocument object are accessed by scripts whose effective script origin is not the same as the Document's effective script origin.

3.2.3 Resource metadata management

The URL attribute must return the document's address.

The referrer attribute must return either the address of the active document of the source browsing context at the time the navigation was started (that is, the page which navigated the browsing context to the current document), or the empty string if there is no such originating page, or if the UA has been configured not to report referrers in this case, or if the navigation was initiated for a hyperlink with a noreferrer keyword.

In the case of HTTP, the referrer DOM attribute will match the Referer (sic) header that was sent when fetching the current page.

Typically user agents are configured to not report referrers in the case where the referrer uses an encrypted protocol and the current page does not (e.g. when navigating from an https: page to an http: page).


The cookie attribute represents the cookies of the resource.

On getting, if the sandboxed origin browsing context flag is set on the browsing context of the document, the user agent must raise a security exception. Otherwise, it must return the same string as the value of the Cookie HTTP header it would include if fetching the resource indicated by the document's address over HTTP, as per RFC 2109 section 4.3.4 or later specifications. [RFC2109] [RFC2965]

On setting, if the sandboxed origin browsing context flag is set on the browsing context of the document, the user agent must raise a security exception. Otherwise, the user agent must act as it would when processing cookies if it had just attempted to fetch the document's address over HTTP, and had received a response with a Set-Cookie header whose value was the specified value, as per RFC 2109 sections 4.3.1, 4.3.2, and 4.3.3 or later specifications. [RFC2109] [RFC2965]

Since the cookie attribute is accessible across frames, the path restrictions on cookies are only a tool to help manage which cookies are sent to which parts of the site, and are not in any way a security feature.


The lastModified attribute, on getting, must return the date and time of the Document's source file's last modification, in the user's local timezone, in the following format:

  1. The month component of the date.
  2. A U+002F SOLIDUS character ('/').
  3. The day component of the date.
  4. A U+002F SOLIDUS character ('/').
  5. The year component of the date.
  6. A U+0020 SPACE character.
  7. The hours component of the time.
  8. A U+003A COLON character (':').
  9. The minutes component of the time.
  10. A U+003A COLON character (':').
  11. The seconds component of the time.

All the numeric components above, other than the year, must be given as two digits in the range U+0030 DIGIT ZERO to U+0039 DIGIT NINE representing the number in base ten, zero-padded if necessary.

The Document's source file's last modification date and time must be derived from relevant features of the networking protocols used, e.g. from the value of the HTTP Last-Modified header of the document, or from metadata in the file system for local files. If the last modification date and time are not known, the attribute must return the string 01/01/1970 00:00:00.

A Document is always set to one of three modes: no quirks mode, the default; quirks mode, used typically for legacy documents; and limited quirks mode, also known as "almost standards" mode. The mode is only ever changed from the default by the HTML parser, based on the presence, absence, or value of the DOCTYPE string.

The compatMode DOM attribute must return the literal string "CSS1Compat" unless the document has been set to quirks mode by the HTML parser, in which case it must instead return the literal string "BackCompat".

As far as parsing goes, the quirks I know of are:

Documents have an associated character encoding. When a Document object is created, the document's character encoding must be initialized to UTF-16. Various algorithms during page loading affect this value, as does the charset setter. [IANACHARSET]

The charset DOM attribute must, on getting, return the preferred MIME name of the document's character encoding. On setting, if the new value is an IANA-registered alias for a character encoding, the document's character encoding must be set to that character encoding. (Otherwise, nothing happens.)

The characterSet DOM attribute must, on getting, return the preferred MIME name of the document's character encoding.

The defaultCharset DOM attribute must, on getting, return the preferred MIME name of a character encoding, possibly the user's default encoding, or an encoding associated with the user's current geographical location, or any arbitrary encoding name.

Each document has a current document readiness. When a Document object is created, it must have its current document readiness set to the string "loading". Various algorithms during page loading affect this value. When the value is set, the user agent must fire a simple event called readystatechanged at the Document object.

The readyState DOM attribute must, on getting, return the current document readiness.

3.2.4 DOM tree accessors

The html element of a document is the document's root element, if there is one and it's an html element, or null otherwise.

The head element of a document is the first head element that is a child of the html element, if there is one, or null otherwise.

The title element of a document is the first title element in the document (in tree order), if there is one, or null otherwise.

The title attribute must, on getting, run the following algorithm:

  1. If the root element is an svg element in the "http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" namespace, and the user agent supports SVG, then the getter must return the value that would have been returned by the DOM attribute of the same name on the SVGDocument interface.

  2. Otherwise, it must return a concatenation of the data of all the child text nodes of the title element, in tree order, or the empty string if the title element is null.

On setting, the following algorithm must be run:

  1. If the root element is an svg element in the "http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" namespace, and the user agent supports SVG, then the setter must defer to the setter for the DOM attribute of the same name on the SVGDocument interface. Stop the algorithm here.

  2. If the title element is null and the head element is null, then the attribute must do nothing. Stop the algorithm here.
  3. If the title element is null, then a new title element must be created and appended to the head element.
  4. The children of the title element (if any) must all be removed.
  5. A single Text node whose data is the new value being assigned must be appended to the title element.

The title attribute on the HTMLDocument interface should shadow the attribute of the same name on the SVGDocument interface when the user agent supports both HTML and SVG.

The body element of a document is the first child of the html element that is either a body element or a frameset element. If there is no such element, it is null. If the body element is null, then when the specification requires that events be fired at "the body element", they must instead be fired at the Document object.

The body attribute, on getting, must return the body element of the document (either a body element, a frameset element, or null). On setting, the following algorithm must be run:

  1. If the new value is not a body or frameset element, then raise a HIERARCHY_REQUEST_ERR exception and abort these steps.
  2. Otherwise, if the new value is the same as the body element, do nothing. Abort these steps.
  3. Otherwise, if the body element is not null, then replace that element with the new value in the DOM, as if the root element's replaceChild() method had been called with the new value and the incumbent body element as its two arguments respectively, then abort these steps.
  4. Otherwise, the the body element is null. Append the new value to the root element.

The images attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only img elements.

The embeds attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only embed elements.

The plugins attribute must return the same object as that returned by the embeds attribute.

The links attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only a elements with href attributes and area elements with href attributes.

The forms attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only form elements.

The anchors attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only a elements with name attributes.

The scripts attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the Document node, whose filter matches only script elements.

The getElementsByName(name) method a string name, and must return a live NodeList containing all the a, applet, button, form, iframe, img, input, map, meta, object, select, and textarea elements in that document that have a name attribute whose value is equal to the name argument.

The getElementsByClassName(classNames) method takes a string that contains an unordered set of unique space-separated tokens representing classes. When called, the method must return a live NodeList object containing all the elements in the document that have all the classes specified in that argument, having obtained the classes by splitting a string on spaces. If there are no tokens specified in the argument, then the method must return an empty NodeList.

The getElementsByClassName() method on the HTMLElement interface must return a live NodeList with the nodes that the HTMLDocument getElementsByClassName() method would return when passed the same argument(s), excluding any elements that are not descendants of the HTMLElement object on which the method was invoked.

HTML, SVG, and MathML elements define which classes they are in by having an attribute in the per-element partition with the name class containing a space-separated list of classes to which the element belongs. Other specifications may also allow elements in their namespaces to be labeled as being in specific classes. UAs must not assume that all attributes of the name class for elements in any namespace work in this way, however, and must not assume that such attributes, when used as global attributes, label other elements as being in specific classes.

Given the following XHTML fragment:

<div id="example">
 <p id="p1" class="aaa bbb"/>
 <p id="p2" class="aaa ccc"/>
 <p id="p3" class="bbb ccc"/>
</div>

A call to document.getElementById('example').getElementsByClassName('aaa') would return a NodeList with the two paragraphs p1 and p2 in it.

A call to getElementsByClassName('ccc bbb') would only return one node, however, namely p3. A call to document.getElementById('example').getElementsByClassName('bbb  ccc ') would return the same thing.

A call to getElementsByClassName('aaa,bbb') would return no nodes; none of the elements above are in the "aaa,bbb" class.

The dir attribute on the HTMLDocument interface is defined along with the dir content attribute.

3.3 Elements

3.3.1 Semantics

Elements, attributes, and attribute values in HTML are defined (by this specification) to have certain meanings (semantics). For example, the ol element represents an ordered list, and the lang attribute represents the language of the content.

Authors must not use elements, attributes, and attribute values for purposes other than their appropriate intended semantic purpose.

For example, the following document is non-conforming, despite being syntactically correct:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en-GB">
 <head> <title> Demonstration </title> </head>
 <body>
  <table>
   <tr> <td> My favourite animal is the cat. </td> </tr>
   <tr>
    <td>
     —<a href="http://example.org/~ernest/"><cite>Ernest</cite></a>,
     in an essay from 1992
    </td>
   </tr>
  </table>
 </body>
</html>

...because the data placed in the cells is clearly not tabular data (and the cite element mis-used). A corrected version of this document might be:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en-GB">
 <head> <title> Demonstration </title> </head>
 <body>
  <blockquote>
   <p> My favourite animal is the cat. </p>
  </blockquote>
  <p>
   —<a href="http://example.org/~ernest/">Ernest</a>,
   in an essay from 1992
  </p>
 </body>
</html>

This next document fragment, intended to represent the heading of a corporate site, is similarly non-conforming because the second line is not intended to be a heading of a subsection, but merely a subheading or subtitle (a subordinate heading for the same section).

<body>
 <h1>ABC Company</h1>
 <h2>Leading the way in widget design since 1432</h2>
 ...

The header element should be used in these kinds of situations:

<body>
 <header>
  <h1>ABC Company</h1>
  <h2>Leading the way in widget design since 1432</h2>
 </header>
 ...

Through scripting and using other mechanisms, the values of attributes, text, and indeed the entire structure of the document may change dynamically while a user agent is processing it. The semantics of a document at an instant in time are those represented by the state of the document at that instant in time, and the semantics of a document can therefore change over time. User agents must update their presentation of the document as this occurs.

HTML has a progress element that describes a progress bar. If its "value" attribute is dynamically updated by a script, the UA would update the rendering to show the progress changing.

3.3.2 Elements in the DOM

The nodes representing HTML elements in the DOM must implement, and expose to scripts, the interfaces listed for them in the relevant sections of this specification. This includes HTML elements in XML documents, even when those documents are in another context (e.g. inside an XSLT transform).

Elements in the DOM represent things; that is, they have intrinsic meaning, also known as semantics.

For example, an ol element represents an ordered list.

The basic interface, from which all the HTML elements' interfaces inherit, and which must be used by elements that have no additional requirements, is the HTMLElement interface.

interface HTMLElement : Element {
  // DOM tree accessors
  NodeList getElementsByClassName(in DOMString classNames);

  // dynamic markup insertion
           attribute DOMString innerHTML;

  // metadata attributes
           attribute DOMString id;
           attribute DOMString title;
           attribute DOMString lang;
           attribute DOMString dir;
           attribute DOMString className;
  readonly attribute DOMTokenList classList;
  readonly attribute DOMStringMap dataset;

  // user interaction
           attribute boolean irrelevant;
  void click();
  void scrollIntoView();
  void scrollIntoView(in boolean top);
           attribute long tabIndex;
  void focus();
  void blur();
           attribute boolean draggable;
           attribute DOMString contentEditable;
  readonly attribute DOMString isContentEditable;
           attribute HTMLMenuElement contextMenu;

  // styling
  readonly attribute CSSStyleDeclaration style;

  // data templates
           attribute DOMString template;
  readonly attribute HTMLDataTemplateElement templateElement;
           attribute DOMString ref;
  readonly attribute Node refNode;
           attribute DOMString registrationMark;
  readonly attribute DocumentFragment originalContent;

  // event handler DOM attributes
           attribute EventListener onabort;
           attribute EventListener onbeforeunload;
           attribute EventListener onblur;
           attribute EventListener onchange;
           attribute EventListener onclick;
           attribute EventListener oncontextmenu;
           attribute EventListener ondblclick;
           attribute EventListener ondrag;
           attribute EventListener ondragend;
           attribute EventListener ondragenter;
           attribute EventListener ondragleave;
           attribute EventListener ondragover;
           attribute EventListener ondragstart;
           attribute EventListener ondrop;
           attribute EventListener onerror;
           attribute EventListener onfocus;
           attribute EventListener onkeydown;
           attribute EventListener onkeypress;
           attribute EventListener onkeyup;
           attribute EventListener onload;
           attribute EventListener onmessage;
           attribute EventListener onmousedown;
           attribute EventListener onmousemove;
           attribute EventListener onmouseout;
           attribute EventListener onmouseover;
           attribute EventListener onmouseup;
           attribute EventListener onmousewheel;
           attribute EventListener onresize;
           attribute EventListener onscroll;
           attribute EventListener onselect;
           attribute EventListener onstorage;
           attribute EventListener onsubmit;
           attribute EventListener onunload;

};

The HTMLElement interface holds methods and attributes related to a number of disparate features, and the members of this interface are therefore described in various different sections of this specification.

3.3.3 Global attributes

The following attributes are common to and may be specified on all HTML elements (even those not defined in this specification):

Global attributes:
class
contenteditable
contextmenu
dir
draggable
id
irrelevant
lang
ref
registrationmark
style
tabindex
template
title

In addition, the following event handler content attributes may be specified on any HTML element:

Event handler content attributes:
onabort
onbeforeunload
onblur
onchange
onclick
oncontextmenu
ondblclick
ondrag
ondragend
ondragenter
ondragleave
ondragover
ondragstart
ondrop
onerror
onfocus
onkeydown
onkeypress
onkeyup
onload
onmessage
onmousedown
onmousemove
onmouseout
onmouseover
onmouseup
onmousewheel
onresize
onscroll
onselect
onstorage
onsubmit
onunload

Also, custom data attributes (e.g. data-foldername or data-msgid) can be specified on any HTML element, to store custom data specific to the page.

In HTML documents, elements in the HTML namespace may have an xmlns attribute specified, if, and only if, it has the exact value "http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml". This does not apply to XML documents.

In HTML, the xmlns attribute has absolutely no effect. It is basically a talisman. It is allowed merely to make migration to and from XHTML mildly easier. When parsed by an HTML parser, the attribute ends up in no namespace, not the "http://www.w3.org/2000/xmlns/" namespace like namespace declaration attributes in XML do.

In XML, an xmlns attribute is part of the namespace declaration mechanism, and an element cannot actually have an xmlns attribute in no namespace specified.

3.3.3.1. The id attribute

The id attribute represents its element's unique identifier. The value must be unique in the subtree within which the element finds itself and must contain at least one character. The value must not contain any space characters.

If the value is not the empty string, user agents must associate the element with the given value (exactly, including any space characters) for the purposes of ID matching within the subtree the element finds itself (e.g. for selectors in CSS or for the getElementById() method in the DOM).

Identifiers are opaque strings. Particular meanings should not be derived from the value of the id attribute.

This specification doesn't preclude an element having multiple IDs, if other mechanisms (e.g. DOM Core methods) can set an element's ID in a way that doesn't conflict with the id attribute.

The id DOM attribute must reflect the id content attribute.

3.3.3.2. The title attribute

The title attribute represents advisory information for the element, such as would be appropriate for a tooltip. On a link, this could be the title or a description of the target resource; on an image, it could be the image credit or a description of the image; on a paragraph, it could be a footnote or commentary on the text; on a citation, it could be further information about the source; and so forth. The value is text.

If this attribute is omitted from an element, then it implies that the title attribute of the nearest ancestor HTML element with a title attribute set is also relevant to this element. Setting the attribute overrides this, explicitly stating that the advisory information of any ancestors is not relevant to this element. Setting the attribute to the empty string indicates that the element has no advisory information.

If the title attribute's value contains U+000A LINE FEED (LF) characters, the content is split into multiple lines. Each U+000A LINE FEED (LF) character represents a line break.

Some elements, such as link and abbr, define additional semantics for the title attribute beyond the semantics described above.

The title DOM attribute must reflect the title content attribute.

3.3.3.3. The lang (HTML only) and xml:lang (XML only) attributes

The lang attribute specifies the primary language for the element's contents and for any of the element's attributes that contain text. Its value must be a valid RFC 3066 language code, or the empty string. [RFC3066]

The xml:lang attribute is defined in XML. [XML]

If these attributes are omitted from an element, then it implies that the language of this element is the same as the language of the parent element. Setting the attribute to the empty string indicates that the primary language is unknown.

The lang attribute may be used on elements of HTML documents. Authors must not use the lang attribute in XML documents.

The xml:lang attribute may be used on elements of XML documents. Authors must not use the xml:lang attribute in HTML documents.

To determine the language of a node, user agents must look at the nearest ancestor element (including the element itself if the node is an element) that has an xml:lang attribute set or is an HTML element and has a lang attribute set. That attribute specifies the language of the node.

If both the xml:lang attribute and the lang attribute are set on an element, user agents must use the xml:lang attribute, and the lang attribute must be ignored for the purposes of determining the element's language.

If no explicit language is given for the root element, then language information from a higher-level protocol (such as HTTP), if any, must be used as the final fallback language. In the absence of any language information, the default value is unknown (the empty string).

User agents may use the element's language to determine proper processing or rendering (e.g. in the selection of appropriate fonts or pronunciations, or for dictionary selection).

The lang DOM attribute must reflect the lang content attribute.

3.3.3.4. The xml:base attribute (XML only)

The xml:base attribute is defined in XML Base. [XMLBASE]

The xml:base attribute may be used on elements of XML documents. Authors must not use the xml:base attribute in HTML documents.

3.3.3.5. The dir attribute

The dir attribute specifies the element's text directionality. The attribute is an enumerated attribute with the keyword ltr mapping to the state ltr, and the keyword rtl mapping to the state rtl. The attribute has no defaults.

If the attribute has the state ltr, the element's directionality is left-to-right. If the attribute has the state rtl, the element's directionality is right-to-left. Otherwise, the element's directionality is the same as its parent element, or ltr if there is no parent element.

The processing of this attribute depends on the presentation layer. For example, CSS 2.1 defines a mapping from this attribute to the CSS 'direction' and 'unicode-bidi' properties, and defines rendering in terms of those properties.

The dir DOM attribute on an element must reflect the dir content attribute of that element, limited to only known values.

The dir DOM attribute on HTMLDocument objects must reflect the dir content attribute of the html element, if any, limited to only known values. If there is no such element, then the attribute must return the empty string and do nothing on setting.

3.3.3.6. The class attribute

Every HTML element may have a class attribute specified.

The attribute, if specified, must have a value that is an unordered set of unique space-separated tokens representing the various classes that the element belongs to.

The classes that an HTML element has assigned to it consists of all the classes returned when the value of the class attribute is split on spaces.

Assigning classes to an element affects class matching in selectors in CSS, the getElementsByClassName() method in the DOM, and other such features.

Authors may use any value in the class attribute, but are encouraged to use the values that describe the nature of the content, rather than values that describe the desired presentation of the content.

The className and classList DOM attributes must both reflect the class content attribute.

3.3.3.7. The style attribute

All elements may have the style content attribute set. If specified, the attribute must contain only a list of zero or more semicolon-separated (;) CSS declarations. [CSS21]

The attribute, if specified, must be parsed and treated as the body (the part inside the curly brackets) of a declaration block in a rule whose selector matches just the element on which the attribute is set. For the purposes of the CSS cascade, the attribute must be considered to be a 'style' attribute at the author level.

Documents that use style attributes on any of their elements must still be comprehensible and usable if those attributes were removed.

In particular, using the style attribute to hide and show content, or to convey meaning that is otherwise not included in the document, is non-conforming.

The style DOM attribute must return a CSSStyleDeclaration whose value represents the declarations specified in the attribute, if present. Mutating the CSSStyleDeclaration object must create a style attribute on the element (if there isn't one already) and then change its value to be a value representing the serialized form of the CSSStyleDeclaration object. [CSSOM]

In the following example, the words that refer to colors are marked up using the span element and the style attribute to make those words show up in the relevant colors in visual media.

<p>My sweat suit is <span style="color: green; background:
transparent">green</span> and my eyes are <span style="color: blue;
background: transparent">blue</span>.</p>
3.3.3.8. Embedding custom non-visible data

A custom data attribute is an attribute whose name starts with the string "data-", has at least one character after the hyphen, is XML-compatible, and has no namespace.

Custom data attributes are intended to store custom data private to the page or application, for which there are no more appropriate attributes or elements.

Every HTML element may have any number of custom data attributes specified, with any value.

The dataset DOM attribute provides convenient accessors for all the data-* attributes on an element. On getting, the dataset DOM attribute must return a DOMStringMap object, associated with the following three algorithms, which expose these attributes on their element:

The algorithm for getting values from names
  1. Let name be the concatenation of the string data- and the name passed to the algorithm.
  2. If the element does not have an attribute with the name name, then the name has no corresponding value, abort.
  3. Otherwise, return the value of the attribute with the name name.
The algorithm for setting names to certain values
  1. Let name be the concatenation of the string data- and the name passed to the algorithm.
  2. Let value be the value passed to the algorithm.
  3. Set the value of the attribute with the name name, to the value value, replacing any previous value if the attribute already existed. If setAttribute() would have raised an exception when setting an attribute with the name name, then this must raise the same exception.
The algorithm for deleting names
  1. Let name be the concatenation of the string data- and the name passed to the algorithm.
  2. Remove the attribute with the name name, if such an attribute exists. Do nothing otherwise.

If a Web page wanted an element to represent a space ship, e.g. as part of a game, it would have to use the class attribute along with data-* attributes:

<div class="spaceship" data-id="92432"
     data-weapons="laser 2" data-shields="50%"
     data-x="30" data-y="10" data-z="90">
 <button class="fire"
         onclick="spaceships[this.parentNode.dataset.id].fire()">
  Fire
 </button>
</div>

Authors should carefully design such extensions so that when the attributes are ignored and any associated CSS dropped, the page is still usable.

User agents must not derive any implementation behavior from these attributes or values. Specifications intended for user agents must not define these attributes to have any meaningful values.

3.4 Content models

All the elements in this specification have a defined content model, which describes what nodes are allowed inside the elements, and thus what the structure of an HTML document or fragment must look like.

As noted in the conformance and terminology sections, for the purposes of determining if an element matches its content model or not, CDATASection nodes in the DOM are treated as equivalent to Text nodes, and entity reference nodes are treated as if they were expanded in place.

The space characters are always allowed between elements. User agents represent these characters between elements in the source markup as text nodes in the DOM. Empty text nodes and text nodes consisting of just sequences of those characters are considered inter-element whitespace.

Inter-element whitespace, comment nodes, and processing instruction nodes must be ignored when establishing whether an element matches its content model or not, and must be ignored when following algorithms that define document and element semantics.

An element A is said to be preceded or followed by a second element B if A and B have the same parent node and there are no other element nodes or text nodes (other than inter-element whitespace) between them.

Authors must not use elements in the HTML namespace anywhere except where they are explicitly allowed, as defined for each element, or as explicitly required by other specifications. For XML compound documents, these contexts could be inside elements from other namespaces, if those elements are defined as providing the relevant contexts.

The SVG specification defines the SVG foreignObject element as allowing foreign namespaces to be included, thus allowing compound documents to be created by inserting subdocument content under that element. This specification defines the XHTML html element as being allowed where subdocument fragments are allowed in a compound document. Together, these two definitions mean that placing an XHTML html element as a child of an SVG foreignObject element is conforming. [SVG]

The Atom specification defines the Atom content element, when its type attribute has the value xhtml, as requiring that it contains a single HTML div element. Thus, a div element is allowed in that context, even though this is not explicitly normatively stated by this specification. [ATOM]

In addition, elements in the HTML namespace may be orphan nodes (i.e. without a parent node).

For example, creating a td element and storing it in a global variable in a script is conforming, even though td elements are otherwise only supposed to be used inside tr elements.

var data = {
  name: "Banana",
  cell: document.createElement('td'), 
};

3.4.1 Kinds of content

Each element in HTML falls into zero or more categories that group elements with similar characteristics together. The following categories are used in this specification:

Some elements have unique requirements and do not fit into any particular category.

3.4.1.1. Metadata content

Metadata content is content that sets up the presentation or behavior of the rest of the content, or that sets up the relationship of the document with other documents, or that conveys other "out of band" information.

Elements from other namespaces whose semantics are primarily metadata-related (e.g. RDF) are also metadata content.

3.4.1.2. Flow content

Most elements that are used in the body of documents and applications are categorized as flow content.

As a general rule, elements whose content model allows any flow content should have either at least one descendant text node that is not inter-element whitespace, or at least one descendant element node that is embedded content. For the purposes of this requirement, del elements and their descendants must not be counted as contributing to the ancestors of the del element.

This requirement is not a hard requirement, however, as there are many cases where an element can be empty legitimately, for example when it is used as a placeholder which will later be filled in by a script, or when the element is part of a template and would on most pages be filled in but on some pages is not relevant.

3.4.1.3. Sectioning content

Sectioning content is content that defines the scope of headers, footers, and contact information.

Each sectioning content element potentially has a heading. See the section on headings and sections for further details.

3.4.1.4. Heading content

Heading content defines the header of a section (whether explicitly marked up using sectioning content elements, or implied by the heading content itself).

3.4.1.5. Phrasing content

Phrasing content is the text of the document, as well as elements that mark up that text at the intra-paragraph level. Runs of phrasing content form paragraphs.

All phrasing content is also flow content. Any content model that expects flow content also expects phrasing content.

As a general rule, elements whose content model allows any phrasing content should have either at least one descendant text node that is not inter-element whitespace, or at least one descendant element node that is embedded content. For the purposes of this requirement, nodes that are descendants of del elements must not be counted as contributing to the ancestors of the del element.

Most elements that are categorized as phrasing content can only contain elements that are themselves categorized as phrasing content, not any flow content.

Text nodes that are not inter-element whitespace are phrasing content.

3.4.1.6. Embedded content

Embedded content is content that imports another resource into the document, or content from another vocabulary that is inserted into the document.

All embedded content is also phrasing content (and flow content). Any content model that expects phrasing content (or flow content) also expects embedded content.

Elements that are from namespaces other than the HTML namespace and that convey content but not metadata, are embedded content for the purposes of the content models defined in this specification. (For example, MathML, or SVG.)

Some embedded content elements can have fallback content: content that is to be used when the external resource cannot be used (e.g. because it is of an unsupported format). The element definitions state what the fallback is, if any.

3.4.1.7. Interactive content

Parts of this section should eventually be moved to DOM3 Events.

Interactive content is content that is specifically intended for user interaction.

Certain elements in HTML can be activated, for instance a elements, button elements, or input elements when their type attribute is set to radio. Activation of those elements can happen in various (UA-defined) ways, for instance via the mouse or keyboard.

When activation is performed via some method other than clicking the pointing device, the default action of the event that triggers the activation must, instead of being activating the element directly, be to fire a click event on the same element.

The default action of this click event, or of the real click event if the element was activated by clicking a pointing device, must be to fire a further DOMActivate event at the same element, whose own default action is to go through all the elements the DOMActivate event bubbled through (starting at the target node and going towards the Document node), looking for an element with an activation behavior; the first element, in reverse tree order, to have one, must have its activation behavior executed.

The above doesn't happen for arbitrary synthetic events dispatched by author script. However, the click() method can be used to make it happen programmatically.

For certain form controls, this process is complicated further by changes that must happen around the click event. [WF2]

Most interactive elements have content models that disallow nesting interactive elements.

3.4.2 Transparent content models

Some elements are described as transparent; they have "transparent" as their content model. Some elements are described as semi-transparent; this means that part of their content model is "transparent" but that is not the only part of the content model that must be satisfied.

When a content model includes a part that is "transparent", those parts must not contain content that would not be conformant if all transparent and semi-transparent elements in the tree were replaced, in their parent element, by the children in the "transparent" part of their content model, retaining order.

When a transparent or semi-transparent element has no parent, then the part of its content model that is "transparent" must instead be treated as accepting any flow content.

3.5 Paragraphs

A paragraph is typically a block of text with one or more sentences that discuss a particular topic, as in typography, but can also be used for more general thematic grouping. For instance, an address is also a paragraph, as is a part of a form, a byline, or a stanza in a poem.

Paragraphs in flow content are defined relative to what the document looks like without the ins and del elements complicating matters. Let view be a view of the DOM that replaces all ins and del elements in the document with their contents. Then, in view, for each run of phrasing content uninterrupted by other types of content, in an element that accepts content other than phrasing content, let first be the first node of the run, and let last be the last node of the run. For each run, a paragraph exists in the original DOM from immediately before first to immediately after last. (Paragraphs can thus span across ins and del elements.)

A paragraph is also formed by p elements.

The p element can be used to wrap individual paragraphs when there would otherwise not be any content other than phrasing content to separate the paragraphs from each other.

In the following example, there are two paragraphs in a section. There is also a header, which contains phrasing content that is not a paragraph. Note how the comments and intra-element whitespace do not form paragraphs.

<section>
  <h1>Example of paragraphs</h1>
  This is the <em>first</em> paragraph in this example.
  <p>This is the second.</p>
  <!-- This is not a paragraph. -->
</section>

The following example takes that markup and puts ins and del elements around some of the markup to show that the text was changed (though in this case, the changes don't really make much sense, admittedly). Notice how this example has exactly the same paragraphs as the previous one, despite the ins and del elements.

<section>
  <ins><h1>Example of paragraphs</h1>
  This is the <em>first</em> paragraph in</ins> this example<del>.
  <p>This is the second.</p></del>
  <!-- This is not a paragraph. -->
</section>

3.6 APIs in HTML documents

For HTML documents, and for HTML elements in HTML documents, certain APIs defined in DOM3 Core become case-insensitive or case-changing, as sometimes defined in DOM3 Core, and as summarized or required below. [DOM3CORE].

This does not apply to XML documents or to elements that are not in the HTML namespace despite being in HTML documents.

Element.tagName, Node.nodeName, and Node.localName

These attributes return tag names in all uppercase and attribute names in all lowercase, regardless of the case with which they were created.

Document.createElement()

The canonical form of HTML markup is all-lowercase; thus, this method will lowercase the argument before creating the requisite element. Also, the element created must be in the HTML namespace.

This doesn't apply to Document.createElementNS(). Thus, it is possible, by passing this last method a tag name in the wrong case, to create an element that claims to have the tag name of an element defined in this specification, but doesn't support its interfaces, because it really has another tag name not accessible from the DOM APIs.

Element.setAttributeNode()

When an Attr node is set on an HTML element, it must have its name lowercased before the element is affected.

This doesn't apply to Document.setAttributeNodeNS().

Element.setAttribute()

When an attribute is set on an HTML element, the name argument must be lowercased before the element is affected.

This doesn't apply to Document.setAttributeNS().

Document.getElementsByTagName() and Element.getElementsByTagName()

These methods (but not their namespaced counterparts) must compare the given argument case-insensitively when looking at HTML elements, and case-sensitively otherwise.

Thus, in an HTML document with nodes in multiple namespaces, these methods will be both case-sensitive and case-insensitive at the same time.

Document.renameNode()

If the new namespace is the HTML namespace, then the new qualified name must be lowercased before the rename takes place.

3.7 Dynamic markup insertion

The document.write() family of methods and the innerHTML family of DOM attributes enable script authors to dynamically insert markup into the document.

bz argues that innerHTML should be called something else on XML documents and XML elements. Is the sanity worth the migration pain?

Because these APIs interact with the parser, their behavior varies depending on whether they are used with HTML documents (and the HTML parser) or XHTML in XML documents (and the XML parser). The following table cross-references the various versions of these APIs.

document.write() innerHTML
For documents that are HTML documents document.write() in HTML innerHTML in HTML
For documents that are XML documents document.write() in XML innerHTML in XML

Regardless of the parsing mode, the document.writeln(...) method must call the document.write() method with the same argument(s), and then call the document.write() method with, as its argument, a string consisting of a single line feed character (U+000A).

3.7.1 Controlling the input stream

The open() method comes in several variants with different numbers of arguments.

When called with two or fewer arguments, the method must act as follows:

  1. Let type be the value of the first argument, if there is one, or "text/html" otherwise.

  2. Let replace be true if there is a second argument and it has the value "replace", and false otherwise.

  3. If the document has an active parser that isn't a script-created parser, and the insertion point associated with that parser's input stream is not undefined (that is, it does point to somewhere in the input stream), then the method does nothing. Abort these steps and return the Document object on which the method was invoked.

    This basically causes document.open() to be ignored when it's called in an inline script found during the parsing of data sent over the network, while still letting it have an effect when called asynchronously or on a document that is itself being spoon-fed using these APIs.

  4. onbeforeunload, onunload, reset timers, empty event queue, kill any pending transactions, XMLHttpRequests, etc

  5. If the document has an active parser, then stop that parser, and throw away any pending content in the input stream. what about if it doesn't, because it's either like a text/plain, or Atom, or PDF, or XHTML, or image document, or something?

  6. Remove all child nodes of the document.

  7. Change the document's character encoding to UTF-16.

  8. Create a new HTML parser and associate it with the document. This is a script-created parser (meaning that it can be closed by the document.open() and document.close() methods, and that the tokeniser will wait for an explicit call to document.close() before emitting an end-of-file token).

  9. Mark the document as being an HTML document (it might already be so-marked).
  10. If type does not have the value "text/html", then act as if the tokeniser had emitted a start tag token with the tag name "pre", then set the HTML parser's tokenisation stage's content model flag to PLAINTEXT.

  11. If replace is false, then:

    1. Remove all the entries in the browsing context's session history after the current entry in its Document's History object
    2. Remove any earlier entries that share the same Document
    3. Add a new entry just before the last entry that is associated with the text that was parsed by the previous parser associated with the Document object, as well as the state of the document at the start of these steps. (This allows the user to step backwards in the session history to see the page before it was blown away by the document.open() call.)
  12. Finally, set the insertion point to point at just before the end of the input stream (which at this point will be empty).

  13. Return the Document on which the method was invoked.

We shouldn't hard-code text/plain there. We should do it some other way, e.g. hand off to the section on content-sniffing and handling of incoming data streams, the part that defines how this all works when stuff comes over the network.

When called with three or more arguments, the open() method on the HTMLDocument object must call the open() method on the Window interface of the object returned by the defaultView attribute of the DocumentView interface of the HTMLDocument object, with the same arguments as the original call to the open() method, and return whatever that method returned. If the defaultView attribute of the DocumentView interface of the HTMLDocument object is null, then the method must raise an INVALID_ACCESS_ERR exception.

The close() method must do nothing if there is no script-created parser associated with the document. If there is such a parser, then, when the method is called, the user agent must insert an explicit "EOF" character at the insertion point of the parser's input stream.

3.7.2 Dynamic markup insertion in HTML

In HTML, the document.write(...) method must act as follows:

  1. If the insertion point is undefined, the open() method must be called (with no arguments) on the document object. The insertion point will point at just before the end of the (empty) input stream.

  2. The string consisting of the concatenation of all the arguments to the method must be inserted into the input stream just before the insertion point.

  3. If there is a pending external script, then the method must now return without further processing of the input stream.

  4. Otherwise, the tokeniser must process the characters that were inserted, one at a time, processing resulting tokens as they are emitted, and stopping when the tokeniser reaches the insertion point or when the processing of the tokeniser is aborted by the tree construction stage (this can happen if a script start tag token is emitted by the tokeniser).

    If the document.write() method was called from script executing inline (i.e. executing because the parser parsed a set of script tags), then this is a reentrant invocation of the parser.

  5. Finally, the method must return.

In HTML, the innerHTML DOM attribute of all HTMLElement and HTMLDocument nodes returns a serialization of the node's children using the HTML syntax. On setting, it replaces the node's children with new nodes that result from parsing the given value. The formal definitions follow.

On getting, the innerHTML DOM attribute must return the result of running the HTML fragment serialization algorithm on the node.

On setting, if the node is a document, the innerHTML DOM attribute must run the following algorithm:

  1. If the document has an active parser, then stop that parser, and throw away any pending content in the input stream. what about if it doesn't, because it's either like a text/plain, or Atom, or PDF, or XHTML, or image document, or something?

  2. Remove the children nodes of the Document whose innerHTML attribute is being set.

  3. Create a new HTML parser, in its initial state, and associate it with the Document node.

  4. Place into the input stream for the HTML parser just created the string being assigned into the innerHTML attribute.

  5. Start the parser and let it run until it has consumed all the characters just inserted into the input stream. (The Document node will have been populated with elements and a load event will have fired on its body element.)

Otherwise, if the node is an element, then setting the innerHTML DOM attribute must cause the following algorithm to run instead:

  1. Invoke the HTML fragment parsing algorithm, with the element whose innerHTML attribute is being set as the context element, and the string being assigned into the innerHTML attribute as the input. Let new children be the result of this algorithm.

  2. Remove the children of the element whose innerHTML attribute is being set.

  3. Let target document be the ownerDocument of the Element node whose innerHTML attribute is being set.

  4. Set the ownerDocument of all the nodes in new children to the target document.

  5. Append all the new children nodes to the node whose innerHTML attribute is being set, preserving their order.

script elements inserted using innerHTML do not execute when they are inserted.

3.7.3 Dynamic markup insertion in XML

In an XML context, the document.write() method must raise an INVALID_ACCESS_ERR exception.

On the other hand, however, the innerHTML attribute is indeed usable in an XML context.

In an XML context, the innerHTML DOM attribute on HTMLElements must return a string in the form of an internal general parsed entity, and on HTMLDocuments must return a string in the form of a document entity. The string returned must be XML namespace-well-formed and must be an isomorphic serialization of all of that node's child nodes, in document order. User agents may adjust prefixes and namespace declarations in the serialization (and indeed might be forced to do so in some cases to obtain namespace-well-formed XML). For the innerHTML attribute on HTMLElement objects, if any of the elements in the serialization are in no namespace, the default namespace in scope for those elements must be explicitly declared as the empty string. (This doesn't apply to the innerHTML attribute on HTMLDocument objects.) [XML] [XMLNS]

If any of the following cases are found in the DOM being serialized, the user agent must raise an INVALID_STATE_ERR exception:

These are the only ways to make a DOM unserializable. The DOM enforces all the other XML constraints; for example, trying to set an attribute with a name that contains an equals sign (=) will raised an INVALID_CHARACTER_ERR exception.

On setting, in an XML context, the innerHTML DOM attribute on HTMLElements and HTMLDocuments must run the following algorithm:

  1. The user agent must create a new XML parser.

  2. If the innerHTML attribute is being set on an element, the user agent must feed the parser just created the string corresponding to the start tag of that element, declaring all the namespace prefixes that are in scope on that element in the DOM, as well as declaring the default namespace (if any) that is in scope on that element in the DOM.

  3. The user agent must feed the parser just created the string being assigned into the innerHTML attribute.

  4. If the innerHTML attribute is being set on an element, the user agent must feed the parser the string corresponding to the end tag of that element.

  5. If the parser found a well-formedness error, the attribute's setter must raise a SYNTAX_ERR exception and abort these steps.

  6. The user agent must remove the children nodes of the node whose innerHTML attribute is being set.

  7. If the attribute is being set on a Document node, let new children be the children of the document, preserving their order. Otherwise, the attribute is being set on an Element node; let new children be the children of the document's root element, preserving their order.

  8. If the attribute is being set on a Document node, let target document be that Document node. Otherwise, the attribute is being set on an Element node; let target document be the ownerDocument of that Element.

  9. Set the ownerDocument of all the nodes in new children to the target document.

  10. Append all the new children nodes to the node whose innerHTML attribute is being set, preserving their order.

script elements inserted using innerHTML do not execute when they are inserted.