W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > November 1999

Re: Position of ALT text on IMG

From: Tantek Celik <tantek@cs.stanford.edu>
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 06:08:03 -0800
To: "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>, "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <1270052330-580361253@psdbay.com>
>>There is the general issue of placeholder content of which the ALT attribute
>>on the IMG tag is one example.
>
> The ALT attribute for IMG has _one_ single purpose only, to be available
> as "alternative content" presented _inline_ instead of the graphic that
> for one reason or another is not shown.

As you say, "instead of a graphic, *for one reason or another*", your
statement itself conveys the multiple uses or at least conditions under
which the ALT attribute is used.

My point was only that one such reason/condition is while an image is being
downloaded / is incomplete.

> e.g. It was _never_ intended to "pop up" as a "tool tip"

Agreed - that's what the TITLE attribute is for.

> What the value of ALT should do is to, just straight inline with its
> surrounding content, present itself as a part of the rest of the
> content.

True, similar to the contents of a simple OBJECT tag.
e.g.

As an <img>:

<img
 src="http://validator.w3.org/images/vh40.gif"
 alt="Valid HTML 4.0!"
 height=31 width=88>

As an <object>

<object
 data="http://validator.w3.org/images/vh40.gif"
 type="image/gif"
 height=31 width=88>
Valid HTML 4.0!
</object>

> Lynx handles this aspect of ALT just perfect, let's now see that other
> ua's can do the same.

You did get the invite for the MacIE5 beta, yes?

> For all other "presentational issues" ua programmers are allowed to do
> what they see fit with the content of an eventual TITLE attribute, even
> on elements that have ALT attributes specified.

In addition, for richer "ALTernative" content, authors can use the OBJECT
tag with embedded OBJECT tags.  This is all discussed in REC-HTML4. There is
no reason to abuse or change the meaning of ALT.

> But don't try to change the meaning of ALT... it's well defined already
> (has been for years) and should _not_ be tampered with.
>
> Also, the idea of a browser that "when I turn graphics off" still
> insists on showing "placeholders" for those graphical pieces is just
> absurd.

If you are viewing with a graphical browser, the reason is quite
straightforward.  Many pages depend on the boxes for images being laid out
for the proper layout of the entire page.  If you take away those boxes, but
still render, say the margin, borders, padding, float, width, height etc. of
everything else, you will typically have a completely different layout than
the author intended.

Now as for the dorky little "placeholder graphic" that are show in the box -
I have to agree with you there - it would be nice to have a mechanism to not
show the icon, and just show ALT text flowed into the box which was laid out
for the image.

> The reason to set graphic loading off is to save download time in the
> first place, i.e. make the browser _not_ send out HTTP requests for
> IMG's, but present _inline_ the ALT attribute values for those IMG's
> instead.
>
>   <URL:http://ppewww.ph.gla.ac.uk/~flavell/alt/alt-text.html>

Those "placeholder graphics" are typically built into the UA - so no extra
downloading is happening.

Tantek
Received on Monday, 8 November 1999 09:10:11 GMT

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