What does 'deprecated' mean?
When talking about an HTML tag or attribute, it means that while it still works; it is no longer considered proper coding. The W3C Consortium, the governing body that oversees web programming standards, by calling an HTML tag or attribute depricated is really saying, "We think there's a better way to do this and these tags and attributes will one day no longer work."
While the W3C is comprised of some of the brightest minds in the computing industry, some of these same minds decided calling the button one clicks on to turn their PC off should be labeled START. Jokes aside, with many of the newer techniques like CSS (cascading style sheets) some HTML tags do seem antiquated.
However, there are some tags that at first seem dumb to be flagged for removal. One example would be the underline tag. Instead of using <u> </u> to underline something; the preferred way is <span style="text-decoration:underline;"> </span> or <span class="uline"> </span> along with a separate style definition. Not sure why anyone would prefer the second and third options over the first; but, my guess is this is a not-so-subtle suggestion to only use underlining for links. The strike and s tags which both cause text to have a horizontal line through them is another of those tags that I am not sure are better replaced with CSS.
Tag OK, Attribute Deprecated
This concept of deprecation gets a bit more complicated when the HTML tag is retained and one or more of its attributes are decprecated. For the most part, those attributes that are deprecated refer to alignment (align), color (bgcolor), and size (height, width) - those things that relate to the appearance of the item.
Deprecated without a replacement?
Perhaps one of the most hotly contested deprecated attributes is the start attribute used with ordered lists. The start attribute allowed an ordered list to be stopped and restarted from where it left off. The "new" standard offers no alternative and appears to dictate that ordered lists many not be interrupted. This is one of the deprecated items that many web programmers are continuing to use and many are fighting to be reinstated.
Why do they still work despite being out of favor or replaced?
The biggest factor keeping the W3C and the various web browsers from completely banning the use of the deprecated tags and attributes is that every webpage not currently using CSS or devoid of deprecated items would have to be recoded. While it's true that many webmasters have updated their sites naturally through time, many sites are simply too large to completely redo because some consortium decides a group of programming commands have been superceded by newer techniques.
Easier for New Web Programmers
If you are reading this because you are new to the world of web programming; you've come at a good time. My advice to you would be to not use those tags and attributes identified as deprecated in the first place. While I tend to lean towards the belief that it will be quite a few years, if ever, before these deprecated items are un-usable, it's better to avoid them completely rather than be forced to recode your sites later.
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