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Re: Problems with <acronym>/<abbr> Tags and Web Browsers/handicapped Persons

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 09:20:04 +0200 (EET)
To: Matthias Mauch <matthias.mauch@aadmm.de>
Cc: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.63.0601270903450.15856@korppi.cs.tut.fi>

On Thu, 26 Jan 2006, Matthias Mauch wrote:

> Dear www-html team,

Please note that the www-html list is a public discussion list,
hosted by the W3C.

> In December 2005 i have added a test for Usability on my web site.
> This test use the <acronym>/<abbr>-Tags, a language-Attribute in
> the <acronym>-Tag and a table with more than 2 columns.

I guess you are referring to

The short answer is that <acronym> and <abbr> are (almost) useless or 
worse. They can be worse than useless when authors spend time with them
and ignore real problems or even _rely_ on them and give essential 
information _only_ via title attributes in these elements. A longer 
answer: http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/html/abbr.html

(Regarding tables, a simple table does not need any special attributes, 
and for complicated tables, the accessibility-related attributes would 
generally require so much extra markup that authors just don't bother, and 
consequently there is little motivation for browser designers to write 
code that utilizes those attributes. This might change, but it would 
require much clearer definitions of how we are supposed to use those 
attributes as well as authoring tools that generate them for us.)

> <acronym>-Tag, some web browsers doesn't show the user a visual
> label like a dotted underline.

You can't expect them to do so, on the basis of HTML specifications. The 
sample style sheet for HTML 4.01 suggests some (fancy) styling but no 
underline. Besides, the underline is often a _problem_: it can be confused 
with link underline, and it will (by default) appear in print media too.

This is just one example of the problems with <acronym> and <abbr>.
They are confusingly defined (without semantic distinction beyond that 
implied by the element names, which mean different things to different 
people), little used, and little known by users.

> The <acronym>-Tag is not part of XHTML 2, the <abbr>-Tag
> is part of XHTML 2. I don't understand this, because
> some browsers ignore the <abbr>-Tag.

XHTML 2 is by design incompatible with previous versions of HTML and 
should not be expected to work on browsers that have been designed to 
work with HTML. (It can be relatively simple to develop an XHTML 2
capable browser from some existing browsers, but that's a different 

Please note that XHTML 2 does not exist as a specification. It should be 
cited as a work in progress, not as a defined language.

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Friday, 27 January 2006 07:20:18 UTC

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