Kill these DOM0 shortcuts

A problem a decade in the making

You can refer to a form’s elements in your code by using the element’s name (from the NAME attribute)
— an ancient Javascript spec.

This means myForm.myElement is a shortcut for myForm.elements['myElement']. I’m sure this was seen as handy and harmless at the time, but the problem is that references to form elements, simply by using valid name attributes, can overwrite important DOM properties and methods on the form element. Make a text input with name=”submit” and you overwrite the form’s native submit method; no more form submission!


Effectively, you have to avoid using names that already exist as properties or methods of the form DOM element, from modern specs back to the stone age. To get an idea of how many there are, I created an empty form element with no attributes, fired up the Javascript shell bookmarklet and used its handy props function:

Methods: addEventListener, addRepetitionBlock, addRepetitionBlockByIndex, appendChild, attachEvent, blur, checkValidity, cloneNode, contains, detachEvent, dispatchEvent, dispatchFormChange, dispatchFormInput, focus, getAttribute, getAttributeNS, getAttributeNode, getAttributeNodeNS, getElementsByTagName, getElementsByTagNameNS, getFeature, hasAttribute, hasAttributeNS, hasAttributes, hasChildNodes, insertAdjacentElement, insertAdjacentHTML, insertAdjacentText, insertBefore, isDefaultNamespace, isSupported, item, lookupNamespaceURI, lookupPrefix, moveRepetitionBlock, namedItem, normalize, removeAttribute, removeAttributeNS, removeAttributeNode, removeChild, removeEventListener, removeNode, removeRepetitionBlock, replaceChild, reset, resetFromData, scrollIntoView, selectNodes, selectSingleNode, setAttribute, setAttributeNS, setAttributeNode, setAttributeNodeNS, submit, toString

Fields: accept, acceptCharset, action, all, attributes, childNodes, children, className, clientHeight, clientLeft, clientTop, clientWidth, contentEditable, currentStyle, data, dir, document, elements, encoding, enctype, firstChild, id, innerHTML, innerText, isContentEditable, lang, lastChild, length, localName, method, name, namespaceURI, nextSibling, nodeName, nodeType, nodeValue, offsetHeight, offsetLeft, offsetParent, offsetTop, offsetWidth, onblur, onclick, ondblclick, onfocus, onkeydown, onkeypress, onkeyup, onload, onmousedown, onmousemove, onmouseout, onmouseover, onmouseup, onunload, outerHTML, outerText, ownerDocument, parentElement, parentNode, prefix, previousSibling, repeatMax, repeatMin, repeatStart, repetitionBlocks, repetitionIndex, repetitionTemplate, repetitionType, replace, scrollHeight, scrollLeft, scrollTop, scrollWidth, sourceIndex, style, tagName, target, templateElements, text, textContent, title, unselectable

These are just in Opera; to be really safe you need to add in any extras from all the other modern browsers.

But there’s more

This problem also exists on the document object: Give your form name="getElementById", then try using document.getElementById(). Even worse, IE/win registers all element ids onto the global (window) object.

The real solution

The W3C/WhatWG needs to step up and formally denounce these shortcuts in the HTML DOM specs, and, IMO, also generate warnings in the HTML validator where input names match those in W3C DOM specs, at the very least. Since there’s a sea of legacy code out there using these shortcuts, browser makers desperately need a defined way to handle these collisions.

2 thoughts on “Kill these DOM0 shortcuts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.