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Re: Alternate content for invisible images

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 13:15:50 -0400 (EDT)
To: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
cc: WAI IG <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.9904091309440.15377-100000@tux.w3.org>
There are many cases where "spacer images" are used, or "visual candy" -
stuff that is there to look cool, but has no real function at all. These
are the things which should have ALT="". 

If you think people should be able to know how much trouble you went to in
creating the eye-catching and color-balanced bouquets of roses which you
place between each paragraph, then you are describing something. The
appropriate HTML would be LONGDESC.

There is a difference here between a functional equivalent such as
"search" and a description, such as "Little Magnifying glass being held
over pages of incomprehensible text". In some cases, of course, a long
description is necessary to convey the function, for example of a complex
flowchart diagram.

Currently there is no way in HTML to specify the different uses of
LONOGDESC, but it may be possible to do it in the words used on the page.
ALT should be kept to functional usages.

Charles McCathieNevile

On Fri, 9 Apr 1999, Bruce Bailey wrote:

  ALT=" "
  The above have their place, but, in general, are inferior to simple one
  character text like:
  All of the above are better than things like:
  ALT="horizontal line"
  ALL of the above is better than simply skipping the ALT tag!
  The problem is that there are sites that use ALT="" to parse through Bobby
  or the W3C validator -- when they SHOULD be providing something meaningful.
  It is quite debatable about when an image is "content free".  The consensus
  is that it is much better to err on the side of verbosity than silence!
  > From: David Norris <kg9ae@geocities.com>
  > To: Dominique.Archambault <Dominique.Archambault@hall.snv.jussieu.fr>
  > Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
  > Subject: RE: Alternate content for invisible images
  > Date: Friday, April 09, 1999 6:12 AM
  > My opinion is that if the image is not of enough significance for an
  > alternate text description, for whatever reason, then something like
  > 'alt=""' might be appropriate.  I'm not sure how some user-agents would
  > interpret this.  Perhaps the single space would be more friendly toward
  > UAs.  It will be interesting to see others' thoughts on that.
  > ,David Norris
  > World Wide Web - http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/1652/
  > Home Computer - http://illusionary.tzo.cc/
  > Page via mail - 412039@pager.mirabilis.com
  > ICQ Universal Internet Number - 412039
  > E-Mail - kg9ae@geocities.com

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Friday, 9 April 1999 13:15:55 UTC

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