Re: summary="" in HTML5 ISSUE-32

On Fri, 27 Feb 2009 02:40:16 +0100, Ian Hickson <> wrote:

>> > Unfortunately summary="" can't be made visible in Web browsers, due to
>> > the wide mis-use of the attribute.
>> As with @title, it can.
> If Web browsers are willing to expose it, then that would definitely
> change matters. Are they?
> Input from browser vendors here would be helpful.

I've exposed summary='' in my user style sheet and then looked at about 100 pages from this list

as well as pages from most sites in this list

and concluded that, due to things like summary="For layout purposes", we cannot expose summary everywhere. We can't just expose it in standards mode, either, because there such pages using standards mode. We *could* expose it if we had a reliable algorithm to detect layout tables. Since such an algorithm would affect rendering in browsers, it would have to be given in the spec.

While doing the above excersise, I noted that *most* pages were using summary='' to say "for layout" and from the first list I didn't find a single data table with summary, let alone any data table with a useful summary. From the list of gov pages I only found 2 or 3 tables with useful summary -- the rest either repeated a heading or were "for layout".

Now, I can't but conclude that summary='' values are useful so seldom that it's not worth the cost and risk to break pages that use it wrongly.

If there's a need to distinguish between caption and summary, it seems better to use

   <caption> Table 1. <summary> Foo bar baz. </summary> </caption>

But it's not clear to me why

   <caption> Table 1. Foo bar baz. </caption>

is not good enough.

Simon Pieters
Opera Software

Received on Friday, 27 February 2009 06:51:36 UTC