[whatwg] Placeholder option for text input boxes

Tab Atkins Jr. jackalmage at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 07:00:03 PDT 2008

On Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 4:10 AM, Andy Lyttle <whatwg at phroggy.com> wrote:

> I do not like this idea at all.  That is what LABEL is for, and
>> disappearing
>> "it's so kewl" text is as annoying as BLINK and BGSOUND.
>> Chris
> The <label> tag is great for labels that are displayed outside the input
> box (in front of, above, etc.). The placeholder attribute is intended more
> as a hint than a label, and is displayed inside the input box without taking
> up any additional space on the page.  An example might be:
> <label for="where">Get local weather forecast:</label>
> <input type="search" name="where" id="where" placeholder="City, State">
> Using the "alt" attribute has been suggested here, but no implementation
> uses "alt" in this way, while "placeholder" is already supported by one
> major browser (and since it really isn't alternate text, using "alt" doesn't
> make any sense).  Another suggestion was to use the "title" attribute, which
> is a better idea, but "title" is generally implemented as a tooltip that
> doesn't appear until you hover over the element, which is not the desired
> behavior.  It's perfectly legitimate to use a <label> tag AND title AND
> placeholder attributes, for three subtly different purposes.

Hm.  I have a problem with your example.  "Get local weather forecast" isn't
a semantic <label> for the field - it doesn't describe what the field is
for.  It describes what the *form* is for, and so should be a <legend> or
<hn>.  "City, State" actually describes the use of the <input> itself, and
should be the label.

I'd suspect that *all* examples where placeholder text is used (definitely
all the examples I know of personally) are most semantically served by a
<label> with the text.  Iirc, I once saw a nice javascript solution that
mutated the DOM to remove the <label> and use its text as a placeholder.
Thus, I think this is best served by a CSS directive that does exactly
that.  External vs placeholder text is a display issue - semantically, both
are labels for the field.

The only question would be whether to make this a property of <label> or
<input>...  Probably <label> - targetting <input> would result in

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