[whatwg] Footnotes, end notes, side notes

Křištof Želechovski giecrilj at stegny.2a.pl
Mon Apr 28 12:04:43 PDT 2008

Although providing the footnote as a tool-tip 
seems appealing at the first glance, 
it is not exactly how it should be done.
Footnotes are commonly used for bibliographic references; 
using the title attribute seems to be a non-solution in this case.  
Text of such "footnotes" cannot be copied 
and they cannot contain hyperlinks.


-----Original Message-----
From: whatwg-bounces at lists.whatwg.org
[mailto:whatwg-bounces at lists.whatwg.org] On Behalf Of Ian Hickson
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: [whatwg] Footnotes, end notes, side notes

On Sun, 5 Nov 2006, Martin Atkins wrote:
> It seems to be that the visual continuous media equivalent of a footnote 
> is something like a tooltip or pop-up box containing some text. It'd 
> only be displayed when the user requests it, by clicking on or hovering 
> over it. Paper documents permanently display the footnotes only because 
> of the limitations of the media.
> Doing click-to-view "footnotes" with current CSS is tricky, but doing 
> hover-to-view is reasonably straightforward using some trickery with the 
> :hover pseudo-class and display:none, as long as the footnote content is 
> inline.
> Reverting to traditional footnotes for print media based on the same 
> markup is not straightforward, however. The CSS3 support for shuffling 
> elements about would do it, but we're not there yet.

I think the CSS stuff is less of a big deal than you make it out to be, 
but I agree in general with those comments.

On Wed, 1 Nov 2006, Michael(tm) Smith wrote:
> Whatever browser implementation poverty there might be in handling of 
> the title attribute, the fundamental deficiency is that basing a 
> mechanism for displaying annotations on an attribute value limits the 
> content of the annotations to text. Annotations that can't even contain 
> simple character formatting are useless for anything except the simplest 
> purposes.

All good points.

> > One thing to consider when looking at footnotes is "would the title="" 
> > attribute handle this use case as well as what I'm proposing?". If the 
> > answer is "yes", or "almost", then it's probably not a good idea to 
> > introduce the new feature.
> I really don't think so.  There are accessibility and usability issues
> the title attribute.
> * Screen readers don't read the title attribute by default.
> * Tooltips are inaccessible (in current implementations) to keyboard
> they require hovering with a mouse.
> * Users have no clear way of identifying which content has a tool tip,
> for maybe abbr and acronym (which get a dotted border in FF).
> * It's also limited to plain text, when even the example from wikipedia
> contains additional markup.
> The first 3 issues could possibly be addressed by changing the 
> rendering, but how do you identify a regular title attribute from one 
> intended to be a footnote?  Would it be appropriate for all of them to 
> be treated as footnotes? I don't think so.

Wouldn't it?

> When an author cannot got hold of a work herself, she must sometimes 
> cite a citation of that work in second work. This is what the 
> abbreviation cit. is for. And sometimes a citation refers to more than 
> one version of a work. Here's an example out of the Oxford Style Guide:
> J. D. Denniston, /The Greek Particles/ (Oxford, 1934; citations are from 
> the 2nd edn., 1954).
> Without more clarity (and that partly means examples) on how <cite /> 
> should apply to the complexity of real academic citations, I'd avoid 
> making the assumption that <cite /> cannot contain <cite /> -- for now.

<cite> is now defined to mean "title of work".

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