Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

Jordan Reiter (
Sat, 24 Jan 1998 03:46:05 -0500

Date: Sat, 24 Jan 1998 03:46:05 -0500
Message-Id: <l0311070cb0ef146eae4e@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
From: Jordan Reiter <>
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:>
> 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%.


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=

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

[           Jordan Reiter                             ]
[                ]
[  "It's well known that dead people are all sick     ]
[   because they're too depressing."                  ]
[   -- from ]