Re: IMG ALT attribute in HTML 4.0

Rob (
Sun, 21 Sep 1997 17:35:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
From: "Rob" <>
To: VulcanBoy <>,
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997 17:35:49 -0500
CC: Koga Youichirou <>
In-reply-to: <>
Subject: Re: IMG ALT attribute in HTML 4.0

On 21 Sep 97, VulcanBoy wrote:
> ---Rob <> wrote:
> >
> > So use something like <IMG SRC="border.gif" ALT="Decorative Border">
> > to let users know the image is decorative. Since the image is purely
> > decorative, in the future it can be defined using style sheets
> > 
> This is infinitely more annoying in the middle of some text than
> something like Lynx's usual rendering of [INLINE], as it gives the
> reader just as little information, without it being as obvious that
> there isn't anything important there.

I've seen pages with ALT text that say things like "(Image of Corporate 
Logo)" or they'll put their slogan as the ALT text for their logo. And 
I've seen ALT= comments that say things like "Border Graphic" or even a 
line of dashes for horizontal rules. (It should be possible to specify a 
default image for <HR> in CSS, by the way...)

And of course many sites will put an ALT= text in for menu graphics that 
are content-related.

What makes it look distracting on Lynx is when authors assume everyone is 
using a (specific) graphical browser.

> > Somewhat, but when bandwidth isn't a problem, it isn't as stupid.
> > Some formats such as GIF and PNG allow comments to be embedded
> > near the beginning of the file.
> >
> If you've ever run across a site that has meaningful comments embedded
> in image files, I'd like to see it. Also, when do you see bandwidth no
> longer being a problem?

Most graphics don't have comments in them because they don't need them 
and because they aren't used (so often they just have copyright notices) 
in current systems.  And the current state of limited bandwidth does 
contribute to an author stripping any comments from a graphic.

As for bandwidth in the future, as ISDN, Cable Modems, and ADSN 
lines, as well as architectures like HTTP 1.1 (with Keep-Alive 
connections) and caching/proxy systems become more widely available, 
bandwidth will be less of an issue. It may take several years for this to 
happen (esp. with exponential growth of the internet cancelling out some 
of the improvements), but it will happen.

> [..]
> > The URL without the protocol, server, port, and path. So
> > 
> >   <IMG SRC="">
> > 
> > Would show up as
> > 
> >   "border"
> > 
> Again, this is entirely as meaningless as [INLINE], while breaking up
> text into completely garbled segments, as it's much less obvious that
> it isn't part of the actual text.

I disagree. (It might actually show up as [Image:border] BTW).

A decorative image shouldn't be "part of the text". If it is, then it's 
content-related and should have an ALT= attribute.

And if the behavior of guessing a name in HTML 4.0 degrades from the 
text, then at least use <IMG SRC="decorative-whatever.png" ALT="">
(with an empty but defined ALT attribute) to override this.


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