New Community Article


On the Internet Explorer Community site there’s a new article covering personalising your browser by one of our Internet Explorer MVPs. There are some great tips there that the novice user might find very useful. This is part of a series of articles on the community site and I’d particularly call attention to the article Help Protect Yourself from Online Crime that has great advice whatever browser you use. Feedback and ideas for articles are appreciated.

Thanks
-Dave 

Comments (50)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is the MS team hiring any Firefox devs? I’ve just heard how Ben Goodger (one of the people behind Firefox) has been hired by Google!

    It is absolutely imperative that IE wins the browser wars and stops the rise of XUL and other open standards. Google is the one of the few companies able to beat MS. Imagine the catastrophe if IE was forced to support XUL simply because Google used it for making advanced web applications! MS probably wouldn’t even be able to sue Google for unfairly leveraging its search monopoly and forcing compatibility, because of its own (unfair) anticompetitive perception.

    MS does, however, has the resources to hire the best talent in America – including those working on Firefox, Opera etc. Such people have proven themselves through decent products, albeit with very naive and dangerous IP outlooks. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of the increased salary, and working for MS, when the alternative is being sued for patent infringement…

    Regarding ‘customization’: IE itself isn’t particularly configurable – just compare the article above to the about:config settings in Firefox. There is very little organization in the settings, especially the advanced tab. Definitely something for the UI people to look at.

    Regarding the use of IE as a wrapper: Maxthon or Deepnet are never going to gain more than a fraction, even in extreme niche markets. No-one cares.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Chloe: why is it *imperative* for ie to win the browser wars? competition is good, forces the other browser devs to make their products better. if there was a relatively even percentage of users for each browser, the web would be a better place.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have to echo the above comments. That article on customising IE actually shows you how to change your start page. This is what you are offering up against the most customisable browser in the world? Get serious guys! Get in the game!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Chloe: btw, google already provides a xul version of it http://www.google.com/mozilla/google.xul, hopefully other will follow.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I can’t stop. That article is embarrassing. Aren’t you embarrassed?

  6. Anonymous says:

    No, I’m not embarrassed. As Dave said, the article is aimed toward a less savvy user than most of those who read this blog.

    Remember that I has many different constituencies; some of them will find these articles useful and some will not.

  7. Anonymous says:

    O my god people, is this all you could come up with? Have you guys even thought about what the experience level of the majority of people that read this BLOG is?

    When will the articles become technically interesting and tell something new? Someone who doesn’t even know how to change their startpage or doesn’t know how to change their toolbars would have probably not found this blog anyway.

    We want technical stuff! Tell us how the internals of internet explorer work! give us specs of the quirksmode or so, ANYTHING other than this teletubbies-level stuff please…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with SchizoDuckie, i been following this blog since it started, and I cant say that even one single entry was interesting.

    I get the impression you just blog for the cause, but not to really say something important. Of course, you can blog of whatever you want, but I think that people expect something else. Not entries like "Why I like Windows", "Our favorite DHTML sites", "IE Developer Documentation" and others similar things that are not interesting or news to anybody.

    Can you also please tell me why you guys are not allowed to tell what we will be seing in the next release?

  9. Anonymous says:

    syro:

    If all file formats are open, all standards are open, and the software you are talking about is for a common/popular use (such as web browsing) then an open-source product can copy all the features of a closed-source product at virtually zero marginal cost in terms of developer-resources. This means that everyone is forced to move to a ‘service’ based business model, which is very easily undercut by outsourced labor, and (due to the current positioning of the software industry) will certainly lead to a loss of American software jobs, possibly including mine.

    Rigid standards compliance also leads to boneheaded design decisions. Firefox won’t include the ‘alt’ text associated with an image as a tooltip, despite it being what designers want, because it isn’t technically in the standard to do so, even though everyone uses it this way, etc etc etc.

    Once IT shops start coding EVERYTHING to open standards it will also reduce innovation. I know dozens of webmasters who are removing all traces of ActiveX from their sites to make them work with Firefox, despite all its rich features.

    I have no problem if there were to be another proprietary browser which challenged IE, (although platform homogeneity is a good thing for clueless users). Opera would be fine (and as a side note, is far more customizable than Firefox), except it too insists on open standards. It fails to recognize that you can’t win long-term if you freely allow your competition to implement your features cheaper than you yourself can implement them. This is why RAND protocol licensing is so good… although it is ‘non-discriminatory’ it means it locks out the GPL, the biggest threat to the way the software industry does business.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The above criticisms of the article are a little harsh. As Dave clearly states, the article is targeted at novice users. So most readers of this blog won’t find it useful for themselves, but it may be useful for us to know of its existence so we can point other – less savvy – users in its direction.

    Chloe: Using the alt text as a tooltip is bad, though common, practice. Alt text is there to provide a replacement for the image – for those who browse without images or with an aural browser. If the alt text is useful for this purpose, it becomes redundant to display it as a tool tip because it duplicates the content of the image. However, displaying it as a tool tip may discourage designers from putting full and useful text into it because they don’t want redundant information to appear. The title attribute should more properly be used for this purpose. Abuse of alt tags can pose considerable difficulties for visually impaired users of the web.

  11. Anonymous says:

    What prevents a screenreader (or whatever) from reading out both the alt content and the title content? It seems to me that both would be useful.

    Anyway, my point was: trying to force people to use title instead of alt is stupid (regardless of technical merit), it’s not going to work. People should get pragmatic and start accepting the de facto standard.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Chloe, please learn web standards first before you bash something you don’t seem to know about. If you did, you’d realize that web standards are very flexible and not strict and rigid as you say. Plus, should we accept what you call the ‘de facto standard’ just because IE has the biggest browser share in the market and that we should just accept their mistakes and make that the ‘standard’? Are you saying that IE’s lazy mistakes at implementing CSS should now become the ‘de facto standard’ in web design? That’s not innovation; that’s laziness. Locking the web world into 2001 time is not smart. We need progress, and a monopoly is not the way to get that progress.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The de facto standard you describe is not ideal from an accessibility point of view. There are many common practices in web design that can make life difficuly for users with disabilities. However we can and should change this. Furthermore, in my country at least, we may well be required to do so by law.

  14. Anonymous says:

    >> Anyway, my point was: trying to force people to use title instead of alt is stupid (regardless of technical merit), it’s not going to work. People should get pragmatic and start accepting the de facto standard.

    Trying to force people to use de facto standards is not going to work either when said de facto standards are harmful. The pragmatist would just use title for tooltips: title works, alt doesn’t.

    >> platform homogeneity is a good thing for clueless users

    Great for virus writers too! *ducks*

    >> Once IT shops start coding EVERYTHING to open standards it will also reduce innovation.

    Open standards are good for consumers. Could you imagine if you had to buy a new screwdriver each time you needed to repair a product because the screws you need to undo don’t match any screwdriver you own? Likewise, imagine the difficulties that would occur if each US state operated on its own peculiar timezone, or if each country in the world used a different calendar system.

    Web users don’t want to load up a different browser each time a site uses an "innovative" standard available to only one particular browser. The web is based on open formats: work with that, not against it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    <blockquote><p>If all file formats are open, all standards are open, and the software you are talking about is for a common/popular use (such as web browsing) then an open-source product can copy all the features of a closed-source product at virtually zero marginal cost in terms of developer-resources. This means that everyone is forced to move to a ‘service’ based business model</p></blockquote>

    <p>If the only thing a company can offer over open source alternatives to its software is support for their own closed standards, that company shouldn’t remain in business. Lock-in is not a good thing.</p>

    <p>As for outsourcing, hey – that’s the cold nature of capitalism. Darn hippie.</p>

  16. Anonymous says:

    Snore… another usless article from the IE Crew.

    Seriously, I’m with the others on this site in saying that in the past months, I’ve yet to read anything new or meaningful on this Blog.

    Some may see it as harsh, but the fact remains.

    Instead of questioning when we’ll see anything of merit, I think I’d rather just ask you guys: What’s the purpose of this blog?

    You state what you’d like to talk about here in one of your first posts:

    "We will happily post and discuss issues around what features should be in IE, how features work in IE, the importance of application compatibility in IE, tips and tricks in IE, answers to technical issues, security and extensibility in IE, web browsing in general, and what keeps us up at night."

    Unfortunately, posts on these topics are light, infrequent and/or improperly directed (ala today’s post).

    In 6 months, there has been no offical feedback – as in a proper post, not comments – from the IE team regarding PNG support issues, standards compliance issues, CSS bugs and support, how IE interprets code produced by developers, new features in future releases, etc, etc.

    This leads me to speculate: Either no one on the IE team is a good writer; no one on the IE team actually gives a damn about the Blog; no one on the IE team thoroughly understands the inner workings of the browser; no one on the IE team understands web developers/designers and their needs (ie: the audience); or perhaps some combination of all of the above.

    This blog seems nothing more than a directive from a marketing drone that reads too much Scobble. I suppose then, that you folk aren’t too excited about it – I certainly wouldn’t be.

    A shame though. I’ll keep popping by in case things change, but I really don’t have much hope in this unpolished, unfinished and undirected site.

    Anybody seen those new Mac minis?

  17. Anonymous says:

    For too long the open-sourcers have taunted us by chanting ‘adapt or die’. We have done so: software patents.

    The ‘freedom software’ brigade can’t include patented features or use patented standards in their products, even under RAND licensing. They cannot possibly adapt, so they will die. It’s that simple.

    If a company or consortium comes up with an innovative new standard, why shouldn’t they be rewarded for it? However, if XUL or other open standards take off for web apps the profit opportunity is lost. Look how long it took for money to be made from the web, simply because everything was open. Patents solve this problem nicely, even if the existing open standard gets to market first.

    Regarding alt tooltips and accessibility: I fully acknowledge the problem. title should bring up a tooltip as well. However, it’s not Microsoft’s place to force compliance. The open-sourcers can afford to do it because they are driven by their ’cause’, not money. MS should educate regarding accessible coding but given the number of pages which use alt instead of title, I think it’s worth picking another battle. By insisting on not having alt tooltips Firefox is going against the intention of the majority of web designers.

    Regarding outsourcing: It’s a national security concern as well as a economic one. First, certain code should be kept to the US and allies to limit the capability of rogue states. Second, outsourcing core technical expertise is bad macroeconomic policy.

  18. Anonymous says:

    "The ‘freedom software’ brigade can’t include patented features or use patented standards in their products, even under RAND licensing. They cannot possibly adapt, so they will die. It’s that simple."

    Um Chloe, in case you haven’t noticed, the use of OSS has increased in the face of corporations "hiding" behind the supposed money making guarentees of patents. Why? Because a free market dislikes the idea of monopolies, even artificial ones.

    The rest of your comment is a display of ignorance…I’d quit while you are ahead.

    Some pointers:

    ignorant investors caused the dot bomb, not technology;

    XUL’s success hinges on adoption, not openess – it’s openess may faciltate adoption, yes, but it is a means to the end. (kinda like PDF)

    Firefox renders the alt tag as a tooltip just like IE, that said, it’s still not standard – try using it sometime (firfox that is).

    And outsourcing as a national security issue is only ever brought up by the same folks that invested in .com start-ups without a business plan.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Chloe, patents cannot be granted on software in most cases on this side of the Atlantic. There are some proposals to expand the possibilities for software patents at the EU level, but there is not much support. The latest such proposals have been nixed by the Poles (three cheers for Poland).

    And I can really see how releasing the code for web browsers could help those pesky rogue states. Just imagine what North Korea could be capable of if they all started using Firefox and linux. Western civilisation could collapse around our ears. We’re all doomed. Doomed, I say.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Dave P: Yes, open-source usage might be increasing, but wait till the first patent lawsuit hits. Also, Firefox does NOT render the alt tag as a tooltip, although it has an extension which allows you to do it.

    Regarding national security: Obviously basic rendering algorithms etc are fine. However, encryption etc is a different story. In any case, you have to think strategically rather than case-by-case: why would any country want to voluntarily give up control of its software industry?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Chloe:

    First off, when SCO loses it’s stupidity no patent lawsuit in the world will be able to derail the OSS movement. OSS will be seen as vindicated. (SCO will lose, btw, because their lawsuit is frivolous.)

    Silly me, I suppose I’m so used to a standard, that I stand corrected regarding the alt tag. Considering IE also performs to standard (as in, show title as tooltip) you’re argument is still on shaky ground… If you coded to W3C standard you’d be able to support both browsers, and be open to those using screen readers.

    Regarding national security: Seriously, drop this point… it’s so far out in left field, it can’t possibly be argued properly.

  22. Anonymous says:

    As far as I am aware, the SCO lawsuits have nothing to do with patents, except those introduced by IBM in their countersuit.

    So far the software patent lawsuits (Kodak vs Sun, Eolas vs MS, burst.com vs MS etc) have been directed at big companies with lots of cash, for financial reasons. Things will inevitably change when people use software patents for strategic reasons.

    Corporations can cross-license and be free from threat. They can license patents from smaller inventors. Volunteers can’t do either. Ergo, goodbye, legitimate uses (and corporate adoption) of open-source software.

    As for Europe, it will inevitably have to harmonize its patent legislation in line with the US, because both are members of WIPO, an organisation which is hardly going to push for weaker IP rights.

    Regarding alt tooltips: there are very few occasions I can think of where ‘an alternative text’ and ‘description of the picture’ won’t be the same thing. MS made an excellent design decision when it included alt tooltips, and this became popular enough to become the de facto standard. I fail to see why it is such a hot potato. Can someone please point out an example of when using alt to display tooltip text has caused problems with accessibility? Maybe one of the IE team can elaborate on this point?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dave P:

    On a lighter note, in response to one of your previous comments, the Mac Minis are excellent, they really hit the price/performance sweet spot.

    However, the pricing differential between where I am (UK) and home (US) is annoying. The cheapest one on UK froogle (1.25 Ghz) is £325, which translates to $606 using current exchange rates – over $100 more than the price there. But this is not a new phenomenon 🙁

  24. Anonymous says:

    The great ALT tooltip debate! Sure, I’ll join in.

    IMHO – and my opinion isn’t going to shake the world – website authors should follow the W3C recommendations on the use of ALT and TITLE attributes.

    This would make the page work best with IE as well as a variety of other browsers and accessibility aids.

    The fact that IE displays the ALT text as a tooltip if the TITLE attribute is not present is not incompatible with this approach.

  25. Anonymous says:

    >> However, it’s not Microsoft’s place to force compliance. The open-sourcers can afford to do it because they are driven by their ’cause’, not money. MS should educate regarding accessible coding but given the number of pages which use alt instead of title, I think it’s worth picking another battle.

    Whose place is it then? Doesn’t Microsoft have an obligation to support its disabled users who would benefit from the correct use of alt tags.

    >>MS made an excellent design decision when it included alt tooltips, and this became popular enough to become the de facto standard.

    If I remember my history correctly, it was Netscape who first implemented alt as tooltips – Microsoft copied it to remain compatable with "Best viewed in Netscape" pages. If Netscape followed the HTML specs in the first place we wouldn’t have this mess.

    >>Can someone please point out an example of when using alt to display tooltip text has caused problems with accessibility?

    An example: all of the webpages out there which don’t implement alt on images. If the mentality is that alt is for tooltips, then web designers are going to skip using alt in cases when they don’t specifically want a tooltip to display (like on decorative graphics). As such, disabled users are left confused because they don’t know if altless images are important or not.

  26. Anonymous says:

    MS haven’t taken anything from the standards. In fact, this is an excellent example of how they have embraced and extended, beyond the recommendations of the W3C, (and in a non-IP-controversial way), to make life easier for web devs.

    If someone goes to the trouble of filling out all their alt tags then why should they also fill in their title tags redundantly to get their tooltip?

  27. Anonymous says:

    These monitary barriers to entry (patents) hurt small businesses more than free software. After all, free software isn’t out primarily to be profitable.

    Closed standards are even worse, since anyone who wants interoperability will reverse engineer your code and be compatible with that, bugs and all. Now even you have to remain bug-compatible with your old code, so your customers don’t suddenly have a lot of useless data when they upgrade.

    The traditional software development model will tend to burn itself out eventually anyway. Once all the features are in and debugged, why pay for an upgrade? (with the exception of a few areas, that are similarly less affected by free software)

    The free clones gobble up the bottom end of the innovation curve. Since we are talking about clones, they have to catch up to the commercial version first. If the commercial version has enough innovation to keep people upgrading, chances are good it can keep ahead of the clones as well.

  28. Anonymous says:

    >> If someone goes to the trouble of filling out all their alt tags then why should they also fill in their title tags redundantly to get their tooltip?

    Because alt and title are not the same, and alt is not meant to communicate anything other than what the image depicts. Imagine we have a cartoon of, lets say, a money tree. You would use something like alt="A money tree". There is no need for the browser to display a tooltip of "money tree" because it is obvious to anyone who can view the image that that’s what it is. However, readers may not know the significance of an image of a money tree, so that’s where title comes in — eg title="Money does not grow on trees".

    If used as intended, title is not redundant.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Adrian D: Which is why the alt tag is only displayed as a tooltip if the title tag isn’t there. Why should the alt text not be easily accessible even to those who don’t ‘need’ it?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Chloe: For the same reason DVD players don’t display subtitles in movies by default.

    I have no problem with users flicking a setting to enable alt text to display in IE – but it should be labeled as alternate text (or similar) so that web designers don’t assume alt means tooltip.

  31. Anonymous says:

    "it should be labeled as alternate text"

    By that I mean any alternate text that displays as a tooltip should be labelled in a manner like "ALT TEXT: A money tree", or a way that sets it apart from title tooltips.

    But, with that said, I’m not critical of IE for its implementation of alt attributes. Rather, I think it is wrong to criticise Firefox for not following IE, because, as demonstrated, IE’s implementation is harmful to disabled users because it encourages alt to be used incorrectly.

  32. Anonymous says:

    "MS haven’t taken anything from the standards. In fact, this is an excellent example of how they have embraced and extended, beyond the recommendations of the W3C, (and in a non-IP-controversial way), to make life easier for web devs."

    Come on, Chloe. Easier for web devs?!?!?! I’ve been working as a front-end developer for over 8 years, and this has certainly NOT been the case, especially over the past four years. I’ve lost count of how many projects I’ve worked on where I’ve developed a site based on all W3 standards, making it work in browsers such as Firefox, Opera and Safari pretty darned quickly. Then twice the amount of time I spent making it work in standards-compliant browsers was spent creating hacks to make it work in IE. MS has not extended beyond the W3 as you say. They’ve screwed up the implementation of those standards in IE (ie. alt tags, CSS, XHTML…etc.). They stopped developing IE in 2001 to work on Longhorn, and what developers are left to work with are the lazy mistakes of those IE developers that are now working on Longhorn, not the extension of W3 standards as you suggest. I can only hope they’re not so lazy in the six years they are taking to develop the new OS.

    Plus, the EUs ruling against Microsoft last year should be a pretty good hint that Europe will not just go along with the US in the patent issue, an issue that MS is most undoubtedly supporting on the US side.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Chloe, my comments above are nothing personal. It’s just that so much of my life has been wasted fixing sites in IE due to its bad W3 support. If it were truly compliant, I would be a happy man.

  34. Anonymous says:

    A tooltip, conceptually, is there to supply supplemental information. To expand upon content that is already there. The alt text is supposed to replace content where that content is innaccessible.

    There is a danger, when alt attributes are displayed as tooltips, that designers will end up treating them as a tooltip device and so place information in them that supplements the image rather than replaces it. It’s a subtle issue of user-interface design, but one that may make life unnecessarily difficult for those with visual disabilities.

    In other news, the referenced article about protecting yourself from online crime is a good one. There are a number of users I know who might benefit from reading that article. However, I also suspect some might be put off by the use of jargon. Using terms like "social engineering" in the introductory paragraphs is going to turn off some people.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Big Bad Wolf:

    No offense taken, I am used to people not agreeing with me :o)

    alt tooltips, the specific rendering under discussion, have made life easier for many webdevs. The debate is about whether they hinder accessibility or are neutral to it.

    More generally, IE has been rather rubbish, but that is because of inconsistency within its own dev guidelines, not because of lack of conformity to W3. MSDN has now improved considerably and serves well as the first port of call for a HTML reference.

    lowercase josh:

    Many patents for standards are RAND, and many many more are licensed under ‘scaling terms’ – in particular, free to develop with, and very cheap with the first few distributions. These terms are not onerous for small development shops. However, open-source is excluded.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Rubbish IE is, Chloe. But its dev guidelines should follow the W3 guidelines it professes to support (isn’t MS a silver member, or whatever it’s called, of the W3?). Why say you support something and then not follow it?

    Regarding the ‘alt’ attribute, the way devs use it today does hinder accessibility. Since readers for the blind, for example, use the alt attribute to describe an image, it doesn’t help them much when devs misuse it, when devs could easily incorporate the ‘title’ attribute. It’s not much work, taking maybe a few minutes to change a page to use it correctly. I have never understood why people get so worked up over it. It’s very simple.

  37. Anonymous says:

    @ Bruce

    >> The fact that IE displays the ALT text as a tooltip if the TITLE attribute is not present is not incompatible with this approach.

    From the HTML 4.01 spec:

    http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/objects.html#h-13.2

    The alt attribute specifies alternate text that is rendered when the image ***cannot*** be displayed (see below for information on how to specify alternate text ). User agents must render alternate text when they ***cannot*** support images, they cannot support a certain image type or when they are configured not to display images.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Flavio, that’s what IE does. Turn of image rendering, and you see the ALT text displayed in place of the images.

    I assume you interpret the paragraph to also mean the inverse (e.g. "User agents must not render alternate text when they can support images, when they support a certain image type or when they are configured to display images").

    Where does the W3C say that?

  39. Anonymous says:

    I understand the need to support all levels of users, but I doubt casual IE users monitor websites looking for usability tips. The prime focus of this community should be helping power-users and developers more productive when digging into the innards of IE.

    Although I like some areas of the MS site, the IE areas are almost useless. Most of the content was written pre-2000 – and there’s no way to screen out the obsolete information. (Don’t delete it, just let me choose to ignore it.)

    My biggest complaint is the disconnect between IE technical reference material and instructional content within MSDN – there are no links between these areas at all. In my opinion, the most useful IE content is actually found in the Support Knowledge Base – which is certainly not cross-referenced with MSDN. The KB info is helpful because I can see at a glance which products articles apply to and usually find a cross-reference from content for VB to C# (or vice versa) if needed. The KB search tool seems to use additional criteria to return more useful result sets as well.

    Finally, the often quality-and-date-challenged instructional IE content that is available on MSDN is all lumped into one group of 60+ articles that address all sorts of topics. Since the MSDN search tool is so poor, you almost have to look through those articles (plus any columns, etc. that don’t even have titles to indicate their contents) individually to see if the content is applicable and somewhat current.

    Try going to the "new" IE Developer Center and clicking on the Technical Articles section for Internet Explorer Development. It’s a link to a single raw MSDN library set of IE articles that happen to appear in one narrow (but completely unstructured) category. The "developer center" provides no help with organization of the articles, gives no pointer to any of the many other MSDN technical articles that might be of interest… and generally looks like someone slapped on a developer center label because of orders from above.

    Get your act together, IE team. If there’s ever a time you want to be helping Microsoft-focused developers rather than frustrating us, it’s now…

  40. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the feedback. We are starting a revamp of the MSDN documentation and although this may take some time we hope that most of the issues you mention will be addressed over the coming months. I’m sure you appreciate that given the wealth of documentation here this is not a quick and easy task.

    The article I referred to in this blog entry is on the IE community website http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/community/default.mspx which is not part of MSDN and is targetted at general users rather than developers.

    If there are particular topics you wish to see covered in the developer documentation on MSDN then please let us know.

    Thanks

    -Dave

  41. Anonymous says:

    @ bruce

    sounds like a sophism…

    so a browser that formats your hard drive when you specify the alt attribute should be compliant. the spec does not cover drive formatting in response to the alt attribute. right?

  42. Anonymous says:

    Flavio, you failed to answer the question and instead deflect with a logical fallacy.

    So I ask again, where in that spec does the W3C prohibit the ALT text from being rendered if the image is rendered as well?

    The argument that showing the ALT text misleads web developers into misusing the ALT text is weak. The TITLE attribute has the same potential for misuse, or even broader potential since it applies to more elements.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Maybe it would be a good idea to say ‘You should always include a alt="alternative image text" to increase the accessibility of your web pages’ or something similar in your documentation:

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/reference/objects/img.asp

    Also, it might be a good idea to include the alt attribute in the example to encourage its use for accessibility.

  44. Anonymous says:

    >> The argument that showing the ALT text misleads web developers into misusing the ALT text is weak. The TITLE attribute has the same potential for misuse, or even broader potential since it applies to more elements.

    Weak? How much more evidence do you need? Here is a quote from Borland that typifies the "alt is for tooltips" mentality (and its consequences).

    "However, now that Lynx represents 0% of the traffic to our site, and since ALT text is now used as tooltips on other browsers, we can no longer guarantee that ALT text will be in place for images." [1]

    Also, title does not have the same potential for misuse because its scope for use is much wider in the first place, so the impact of any such misuse will be felt far, far less by minority groups like the disabled.

    >>Also, it might be a good idea to include the alt attribute in the example to encourage its use for accessibility.

    That’s a great idea Chloe.

    1. http://info.borland.com/sitetools/helpfulhints.html

  45. Anonymous says:

    > If someone goes to the trouble of filling out all their alt tags then why should they also fill in their title tags redundantly to get their tooltip?

    If the alt attribute is what they want for a tooltip, then they are probably using an incorrect alt attribute. There are exceptions, but they are in the minority.

    PS: there’s no such thing as an "alt tag", and you are talking about title attributes, not title tags.

    > alt tooltips, the specific rendering under discussion, have made life easier for many webdevs.

    What is your basis for claiming that? The instances where properly written alt text is suitable for a tooltip are in the minority. As others have explained, it’s meant to be used as an alternative.

    > MSDN has now improved considerably and serves well as the first port of call for a HTML reference.

    WTF? The HTML specifications should be the first port of call as reference material for any *competent* web developer.

    > So I ask again, where in that spec does the W3C prohibit the ALT text from being rendered if the image is rendered as well?

    It’s not strictly prohibited in the same way the specification doesn’t strictly prohibit marking up paragraphs as heading elements.

    *alt* is for an *alternative* rendering. The very meaning of the word should be enough of a clue to realise you aren’t supposed to display both at once.