Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

Colin F Reynolds (
Sun, 18 Jan 1998 10:47:59 -0500 (EST)

Date: Sun, 18 Jan 1998 10:47:59 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <>
From: Colin F Reynolds <>
Subject: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

My apologies if this has already been discussed here before (I haven't
seen it).

Am I, or am I not, correct in assuming that the intention of the ALT
attribute of the IMG tag is to provide ALTernative (textual) content in
the event that the image to which the tag refers is unavailable?

If this is the case, then isn't the implementation of ALT text as
tooltips a design flaw in the user agent, which should be removed at the
earliest opportunity (so as to reduce the amount of content in place on
the WWW which makes use of this flaw)?

Has the ALT attribute been hijacked in this way because of an ambiguity
in its definition? If so, I move to resolve the ambiguity.

I agree that, since _some_ images are used as hyperlinks, tooltips may
be appropriate for those images. If this is deemed a useful enhancement,
then in order to cater for this, one backwards-compatible solution which
I can see is the simple addition of a TOOLTIP attribute to the IMG
element for use in those cases.

As things stand, attempting to create hypertext content which caters for
a conflicting interpretation of the ALT attribute is, well, it's driving
me nuts, for one thing :)
Colin Reynolds
"I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but
I'm not sure you realize that what you heard was not what I meant!"