Designer wrote:

I think we are just splitting hairs now.

I agree (to a degree), but I wanted to "paint it out" with a smaller
brush :-)

a) I personally do use alt tags, every time : (In other words, I agree with you in principle)

Principles are good when aiming for "best practices", but are worth next
to nothing to the many who don't study (or care about) "best practices"
if those principles aren't at least (going to be) backed up by a
"standard" and can (to some degree) be checked automatically.

To (too) many the word "optional" means "not worth bothering about",
even if that's *not* the meaning given in the suggestion regarding alt
attribute for HTML5.

b) but I am aware of situations where they are pretty useless. (In other words I know their limitations in certain cases and can see why
 it is being suggested that they are 'optional'.

Personally I can't see any case where the alt attribute is completely
useless, but I definitely can see lots of cases where it in itself falls
short of solving the problems related to "alternative description of an
image".

We do have some optional additions to the alt attribute in existing
standards, but their use are not all that well defined, and they are
rarely used - maybe because they are, and have to be, optional.

So, I don't want the alt attribute to become optional just because we
don't have good solutions for its shortcomings, or the way it is used /
misused / not used, at the moment. Instead, we need to look for better
solutions, and they may even be based on progress in any field made
between now and the time HTML5 can be put to use.

regards
        Georg
--
http://www.gunlaug.no


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