[whatwg] [WF2] - Suggestion - Make the "alt" Attribute implied for

Matthew Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Thu Jan 6 00:14:42 PST 2005

On 6 Jan, 2005, at 3:19 AM, Matthew Raymond wrote:
>    I would like to see the |alt| attribute for elements <img> and  
> <area> changed from a required attribute to an implied one.

(That would be a change of direction: alt= was implied up to HTML 3.2,  
and made compulsory in HTML 4.0.

> In other words, markup that looks like this...
> <img src="image.png" alt="">
> ....should look like this...
> <img src="image.png">
> ...

For perhaps 95 percent of the images on the Web, the most appropriate  
alternate text is nothing at all. (In 2003 I did a survey of images in  
Wikipedia articles, where images aren't even used for decoration, and  
still found that alt="" would be the most sensible choice for 77  
percent of them.) So for that 95 percent, assuming that no alt is  
alt="" would improve the user experience.

Unfortunately, the other 5 percent would ruin the idea. When  
screenreaders are wading through inaccessibly-written pages, sometimes  
images are used for navigation (graphical menus, for example), so the  
user needs an indication that an image is there (whereupon they can  
guess its function by its URI). Assuming that all these images had  
alt="" would make such pages completely unnavigable.

Matthew Thomas

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