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RE: alt tags no with a twist

From: Charles (Chuck) Oppermann <chuckop@MICROSOFT.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Aug 1998 18:04:44 -0700
Message-ID: <D70342829C12D2119D0700805FBECA2F75F331@RED-MSG-55>
To: "'John T. Whelan'" <whelan@physics.utah.edu>, colin@nospam.demon.co.uk, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I agree that the use of ALT as tooltips regardless of the
TITLE tag hurts the web coming and going by 1) making sensible ALT
text look stupid as a tooltip and 2) causing people to define
tooltip-oriented ALT text which makes no sense in a text browser, like
ALT="BULLET".  But wouldn't a sensible strategy be:

Before IE3 started using ALT tags as ToolTips, very, very few web sites
bothered with putting ALT text in.  Most books just referenced ALT as needed
for "text-mode browsers" and wasn't a concern for graphical browsers.

Additionally, authors who wanted to put in ALT text didn't have a way of
easily testing their implementation.

All throughout graphical user interfaces, ToolTips are used to provide
textual representations of graphical objects.

Sure some people will abuse ALT, but it's likely that those relatively small
number of people who do so, wouldn't have bothered with an ALT if the
ToolTip feature didn't exist.  Finally, nearly 100% of the time, some ALT
text is better than no ALT text.

The abuse of ALT was rectified in HTML 4.0 by the addition of TITLE.  Now
authors can provide alternative text and user interface hints.

Please see my comments in the Page Authoring Guidelines list for a
description of how Internet Explorer treats ALT and TITLE.

Charles Oppermann
Program Manager, Active Accessibility, Microsoft Corporation
mailto:chuckop@microsoft.com http://microsoft.com/enable/
"A computer on every desk and in every home, usable by everyone!"
Received on Tuesday, 18 August 1998 21:04:29 UTC

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