I’m am so tired of the never-ending misunderstanding of the
alt attribute versus the
IE’s harm on the world
Internet Explorer up to version 7 incorrectly displays the value of the
alt attribute as a tooltip when you hover an image. This has led to numerous web developers thinking that
alt is supposed to be used for tooltips, and has in turn led to customers, managers et al believing so too, hence incorrectly using the term for when they want a tooltip displayed.
There are still hundreds of thousands of web pages out there built on that the
alt attribute will act as the tooltip. These will only work in Internet Explorer, not in Firefox, Safari, Opera or any other web browser.
alt attribute – how it should be
Start by reading the W3C specification:
Several non-textual elements (IMG, AREA, APPLET, and INPUT) let authors specify alternate text to serve as content when the element cannot be rendered normally.
The name of the attribute,
alt, is short for alternate. That means it should be display if the image fails to load, not otherwise.
The true tooltip attribute –
If you want do display a tooltip, you should instead use the
title attribute. That will work for basically any element in a web page, too, not just image elements.
Microsoft has backed down
With Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft has finally backed down, acknowledged this as a bug, and fixed it. So for anyone depending on the
alt attribute, you need to reconsider, since that will not even work in IE 8.
The difference, once again
alt attribute is there as an alternative to the image.
Tooltips, via the
title attribute, is there to complement what you see.
Got it? Please, please say yes!