[whatwg] Definition of alt= attribute

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Sat Jan 21 04:54:34 PST 2006

Henri Sivonen wrote:
> On Jan 19, 2006, at 14:05, Anne van Kesteren wrote:
>> Without the "alt" attribute <img> becomes meaningless for devices
>> (and people) who can not interpreted images.
> Good intention, yes, but let's consider the practice:
> Suppose there is an authoring tool that has a design goal of always 
> outputting conforming (to the extent conformance is machine-assessable) 
> documents. This tool allows the user to insert images.
> Allowing images to be inserted without prompting for more information 
> and also enforcing the presence of a human-supplied alt attribute would 
> mean that the tool would have to refuse to save the document until the 
> alt texts have been supplied. Refusing to save is not good. Therefore, 
> the tool would have to present a document-modal dialog prompting for the 
> alt text upon inserting the image.
> Sure, some people might even enter some text, but people who just want 
> to get on with it would hit return with an empty text box. 
> Alternatively, the tool makers could give up the requirement of 
> human-supplied alt text and just generate an empty alt text by default 
> without asking. (Considering that the tool itself--not just the author 
> using it--will be judged by seeing if the output passes an automated 
> conformance check, it is likely that the requirement of correct output 
> will not be dropped because of the alt issue.)

People seem to have passed this point by. the current specification of 
alt as required makes it almost impossible to design a conforming HTML 
editor that doesn't mess up the semantics of the attribute. Since many 
(the majority?) of HTML pages are produced using some form of graphical 
editor (often implemented using contentEditable or some other HTML+js 
solution as part of a CMS), the spec should at least consider the needs 
of editors as well as UAs.

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