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Re: Clarification of rational for deprecation of @longdesc and @summary

From: Richard Schwerdtfeger <schwer@us.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2008 05:24:52 -0600
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: Joshue O Connor <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, public-html-request@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF2AF59BDC.DC8F0342-ON862573F3.003E7EB7-862573F3.003EB3E1@us.ibm.com>

If wai-aria goes in we have an aria-describedby property which can
reference an area of the document allowing for the prose to be associated
with the image. longdesc is almost never used as people want to use the
same prose in the original document.


Rich Schwerdtfeger
Distinguished Engineer, SWG Accessibility Architect/Strategist
Chair, IBM Accessibility Architecture Review  Board
blog: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/schwer

             Ian Hickson                                                   
             Sent by:                                                   To 
             public-html-reque         Joshue O Connor                     
             st@w3.org                 <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>            
                                       HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>        
             02/05/2008 01:40                                      Subject 
             PM                        Re: Clarification of rational for   
                                       deprecation of @longdesc and        

On Tue, 5 Feb 2008, Joshue O Connor wrote:
> I am wondering if you could expand a little on your response.
> > I also think longdesc="" and summary="" have thought us that placing
> > attributes for specific disabilities into the language itself will
> > result in overwhelming abuse to the point where the target audience of
> > those features actually have to turn them off.
> I guess you are referring to using @summary for black hat SEO, but even
> so, is this a solid enough reason to drop it from the HTML 5 spec?

The summary="" attribute hasn't been studied as carefully as longdesc="",
so it's probably easiest to look at the longdesc="" data (though
eventually we will of course have to look at summary="" specifically as
well). For longdesc="", it's pretty clear that the attribute is used so
rarely, and when used, is so overwhelmingly often used in a way that would
annoy users, that I simply cannot see a scenario on the open Web where a
user would actually benefit from a user agent impementing the longdesc=""
attribute. I would imagine that summary="" (and other attributes, as in
the context of my original missive) would be subject to similar abuse.
Obviously, for existing attributes, we would have to continue doing
research to determine whether the attribute is used usefully enough to be
usable; for new attributes, we have to use our design judgement based on
research and experience with existing features.

Mark Pilgrim summarised the longdesc="" research in his controversial
article on the WHATWG blog:


> FWIW @summary is a very, very practical and useful attribute for screen
> reader users

Well, as noted above, I haven't yet done much research on summary="", it's
waiting with all the other table issues. However, with all due respect,
one of the most convincing pieces of research I have seen examining
summary="" -- and most excellent research it was -- was your own usability
study video, which showed a screen reader user dismiss summary="" out of
hand as being useless and annoying (paraphrasing from memory). Indeed, in
that video, it was only after prompting that the subject acknowledged that
the attribute could theoretically have some use. When the target audience
dismisses the feature, and the authors dismiss the feature, and the only
people left saying that the feature is useful are self-appointed advocates
for the feature (no offense intended, I'm a self-appointed editor!), it is
usually worth reconsidering whether anyone is really benefitting from the
feature. (With summary="", though, I haven't yet studied enough data to
really be able to say with certainty what the conclusion should be.)

> Surely even new and hitherto undreamed of attributes and elements are
> potentially as susceptible to misuse - but is this a solid reason for
> not developing them?

We must design a language that is more likely to be used correctly than
wrongly, yes.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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Received on Monday, 18 February 2008 11:25:14 UTC

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