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Difference between revisions of "Change Proposal for not including longdesc="""

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Furthermore, there already exist a number of alternative mechanisms for providing information to users without using longdesc="", such as simply including the information inline, providing explicit links to long descriptions, and using ARIA attributes such as aria-describedby="".
Furthermore, there already exist a number of alternative mechanisms for providing information to users without using longdesc="", such as simply including the information inline, providing explicit links to long descriptions, and using ARIA attributes such as aria-describedby="".
Some accessibility experts have indicated that the longdesc="" attribute has been problematic:
* IBM's Rich Schwerdtfeger: "longdesc was a disaster" [http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Sep/0596.html]
* Google's Mark Pilgrim: "We've been living with longdesc for 10 years now, and let me tell you, it's not working out" [http://blog.whatwg.org/the-longdesc-lottery]
Even the XHTML2 working group described the longdesc="" attribute as a failure. [http://www.w3.org/2008/02/19-xhtml-minutes.html]


Including the longdesc="" attribute in the language therefore seems like a poor design decision.
Including the longdesc="" attribute in the language therefore seems like a poor design decision.

Revision as of 04:03, 16 February 2010

Summary

The longdesc="" attribute does not improve accessibility in practice and should not be included in the language.

Rationale

Several studies have been performed. They have shown that:

  • The longdesc="" attribute is extremely rarely used (on the order of 0.1% in one study). [1]
  • When used, longdesc="" is extremely rarely used correctly (over 99% were incorrect in a study that only caught the most obvious errors [2]; the correct values were below the threshold of statistical significance on another study that examined each longdesc="" by hand [3]).
  • Most users (more than 90%) don't want the interaction model that longdesc="" implies. [4]
  • Users that try to use longdesc="" find it doesn't work ("Who uses this kind of thing? In my experience [...] it just didn't work. There was no description.") [5].

Furthermore, there already exist a number of alternative mechanisms for providing information to users without using longdesc="", such as simply including the information inline, providing explicit links to long descriptions, and using ARIA attributes such as aria-describedby="".

Some accessibility experts have indicated that the longdesc="" attribute has been problematic:

  • IBM's Rich Schwerdtfeger: "longdesc was a disaster" [6]
  • Google's Mark Pilgrim: "We've been living with longdesc for 10 years now, and let me tell you, it's not working out" [7]

Even the XHTML2 working group described the longdesc="" attribute as a failure. [8]

Including the longdesc="" attribute in the language therefore seems like a poor design decision.

Details

No change to the spec.

Impact

Positive Effects

  • Stops authors from spending time trying to use a feature that they don't understand and that users don't want.
  • Encourages authors to include suitable information in an alternative form that is more likely to be accurate.
  • Results in better overall accessibility on the long term.

Negative Effects

  • ?

Conformance Classes Changes

No change to spec.

This would not affect existing ATs and user agents, as they can continue to support longdesc="" if compatibility with some set of documents where it is used correctly is desired. In practice, removing support is likely to either not be noticed (some users don't know the feature exists) or actually improve matters (given how poorly the feature is used in practice on the Web).

ARIA provides a number of alternative mechanisms that are currently not poisoned by existing content and that fit better into the kind of interaction model desired by users (according to the survey cited above). For example, aria-describedby="" allows an image to be related to in-page descriptive content.

Risks

  • ?

References

Links included inline.