[whatwg] Definition of alt= attribute

dolphinling dolphinling at myrealbox.com
Mon Jan 23 08:43:09 PST 2006

Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
> Bizarre but serious conclusion: alt= should be optional for <img> in 
> documents where a <meta name="generator"...> element is present.

How about "Authoring tools MUST only provide alternate text that the 
author explicitly requests, and especially MUST NOT provide alt="" 
unless the author specifically says that the alternate content is empty. 
Authoring tools SHOULD make it obvious to the author what the meaning of 
alt= is, for example with the string "What text should be used if the 
image cannot be displayed?""

This way, the absence of alt= means "the author was lazy, and didn't 
provide any alternate text, which makes this document invalid" and 
alt="" means "the author specifically said the alt text was empty". 
There's no ambiguity anywhere with what was machine generated and what 
was human generated, because machine generated is specifically disallowed.

Problems with this approach include the following: First, it could be 
interpreted as disallowing pseudo-AI. This could be fixed with a note 
saying "This should not be interpreted as disallowing pseudo-AI in 
authoring tools, but even a pseudo-intelligent authoring tool MUST NOT 
assume an empty alt text."

Second, it could force authoring tools to produce invalid documents if 
the author did not provide any alt text. However, those documents would 
be non-conformant anyway, so this is not a huge problem.


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