W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > wai-xtech@w3.org > August 2007

Re: Investigating the proposed alt attribute recommendations in HTML 5

From: Jon Barnett <jonbarnett@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 19:48:10 -0500
Message-ID: <bde87dd20708301748k2a6f12d1h876dce5cc0a29e97@mail.gmail.com>
To: "John Foliot" <foliot@wats.ca>
Cc: "Gez Lemon" <gez.lemon@gmail.com>, "Steven Faulkner" <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org

On 8/30/07, John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca> wrote:
> Jon Barnett wrote:
> > But specifying alt="" just to prevent the reader
> > from announcing a filename seems like a bad workaround that hurts
> > semantics.
> Jon,
> Can you expand on this please?  How does a null value of the alt attribute
> "hurt" semantics? (I get that it may not be that useful, but hurt?)  And,
> conversely, how does substituting noalt (or omitting an alt value at all) in
> place of alt="" improve or "help" semantics?
> I'm not trying to be smart here; I really want to understand the reasoning.

alt="" means that the <img> represents an empty string and can be
completely ignored without changing the meaning of the surrounding
document - so assigning alt="" to a meaningful image hurts semantics.
Omitting alt means that the image can't be removed from the document
or completely replaced with text (even though it can be described by
text) without changing the meaning of the document - announcing the
presence of a graphic is important.  Those are the semantics I was

(Whether those semantics are applied that way by today's AT is what
we're discussing, and it's a valid discussion.  If there's a better
way to reach those same semantics - distinguishing between meaningful
and meaningless images - that's a valid discussion as well)

Jon Barnett
Received on Friday, 31 August 2007 00:48:17 UTC

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