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RE: abbreviation title within a link: howto?

From: Jukka Korpela <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 09:36:41 +0300
Message-ID: <621574AE86FAD3118D1D0000E22138A95BDCDA@TIEKE1>
To: WAI-IG <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Joe Clark wrote:

> I wouldn't bother. <abbr> and <acronym>, which are what you're
> really getting at here, are useful only for *unfamiliar*
> acronyms, - -

On the practical side, I agree with your basic view. In addition to problems
with implementations, <abbr> and <acronym> markup was never _defined_
semantically in a useful way that could form the basis for making use of the
markup in various programs, including browsers. There's little point in
trying to persuade authors into using markup that lacks well-defined meaning
and that has unpredictable results.

On the forward-looking side, or perhaps utopistically, I think that markup
for familiar acronyms could be very useful, for accessibility and other

> If you really, really insisted on doing this, you should use
> <acronym title="learning disability">LD</acronym> inside <a></a>.
> Presumably that would validate.

Well, yes, it would, and nested <a> elements would not, in pre-XHTML HTML.
(The "X" means, among other things, less expressive metalanguage, so that
the prohibition to nest <a> elements needs to be said in prose for XHTML.)
No, I don't see any particular reason why the prohibition to nest <a>
elements was taken into HTML, but I digress.

> One suspects that every reader of your page will know what "LD" means.

Maybe, but some of them might not _remember_ it easily.

Besides, a "reader" of the page could be an indexing robot, a speech-based
browser, or an automatic translation program. Suppose I know English just a
little and would benefit even from a relatively poor translation. (Lack of
linguistic capabilities is a form of disability, in a sense.) If
abbreviations were marked up, with their expansions, even very simple
translation technology could produce better results in many cases; in this
example, it could behave as if the expansion appeared in place of the
abbreviation. Naturally, such strategy would easily lead into disaster too:
translating "World Wide Web" word by word (and perhaps then forming an
initialism from them!) would produce something rather incomprehensible.

Hence, before encourageing authors into using markup for abbreviations and
acronyms, quite a lot of work with _defining_ them needs to be done, and
this involves considering how the information in the markup would actually
be used and how the uses might conflict. There's little hope before the
specifications even define <abbr> and <acronym> reasonably with respect to
each other; cf. to the analysis at

Jukka Korpela
TIEKE Tietoyhteiskunnan kehittämiskeskus ry
Finnish Information Society Development Centre 
Salomonkatu 17 A, 10th floor, FIN - 00100 HELSINKI, FINLAND
Phone: +358 9 4763 0397 Fax: +358 9 4763 0399 
http://www.tieke.fi  jukka.korpela@tieke.fi
Received on Wednesday, 22 May 2002 02:36:13 UTC

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