Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

Jordan Reiter (jreiter@mail.slc.edu)
Sat, 24 Jan 1998 03:46:05 -0500


Date: Sat, 24 Jan 1998 03:46:05 -0500
Message-Id: <l0311070cb0ef146eae4e@[192.168.1.207]>
In-Reply-To: <Pine.OSF.3.96.980123085626.13157A-100000@beta.hut.fi>
To: www-html@w3.org
From: Jordan Reiter <jreiter@mail.slc.edu>
Subject: Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

=7FJukka Korpela felt an urge to reveal at 7:44 AM -0000 on 1/23/98:

> An early (June 1993) draft for HTML,
> <URL:http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/draft-ietf-iiir-html-01.txt>
> described ALT as follows:
>
>   ALT                    Optional alternative text as an alternative
>                          to the graphics for display in text-only
>                          environments.
>
> On the other hand, it gave the following example (typos corrected here):
>
>         Warning: <IMG SRC =3D"triangle.gif" ALT=3D"Warning:"> This must be
>         done by a qualified technician.
>
> which suggests to me that they didn't really _mean_ what they wrote.

As far as I see it, in a matter of *usefulness*, the most important thing
ALT text can do is replace the *function* of the image. In other words, the
triangle.gif could very well have been the standard "warning" icon--the
triangle with the exclamation point in it. Here, the meaning is retained.
In the same way, a photograph of Lincoln might be replaced by the text
"Photo of Lincoln". And images which demonstrate information might be
replaced with an explanation of what that image describes, for example, a
pie chart showing percentages of various things might be replaced by:

Pie Chart (Percentage of Computers used in Home Settings): Windows, 80%;
Macintosh, 10%; Other 10%.

OR

Pie Chart showing Window's dominance in Home market


I think little details like "Should it be a descriptive aspect of the image
being replaced, or a detailed explanation of its actual visual content, or
what?" are minor compared to emphasizing the non-use of such techniques as

<IMG SRC=3D"image.gif" ALT=3D"Download Netscape!">
<IMG SRC=3D"image.gif" ALT=3D"Turn Image Loading On!">
<IMG SRC=3D"image.gif" ALT=3D"Images Loading...please be patient!"> [my favo=
rite]


These are the real ALT demons that are out there...

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[           Jordan Reiter                             ]
[           mailto:jreiter@mail.slc.edu               ]
[  "It's well known that dead people are all sick     ]
[   because they're too depressing."                  ]
[   -- from http://www.icemcfd.com/cgi-bin/make_flame ]
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