This is a snapshot of an early working draft and has therefore been superseded by the HTML standard.

This document will not be further updated.

HTML5

Draft Standard — Call For Comments — 27 October 2009

4.8 Embedded content

4.8.1 The figure element

Categories
Flow content.
Sectioning root.
Contexts in which this element may be used:
Where flow content is expected.
Content model:
In any order, one dd element, and optionally one dt element.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
DOM interface:
Uses HTMLElement.

The figure element represents some flow content, optionally with a caption, that is self-contained and is typically referenced as a single unit from the main flow of the document.

The element can thus be used to annotate illustrations, diagrams, photos, code listings, etc, that are referred to from the main content of the document, but that could, without affecting the flow of the document, be moved away from that primary content, e.g. to the side of the page, to dedicated pages, or to an appendix.

The first dt element child of the element, if any, represents the caption of the figure element's contents. If there is no child dt element, then there is no caption.

The first dd element child of the element, if any, represents the element's contents. If there is no child dd element, then there are no contents.

This example shows the figure element to mark up a code listing.

<p>In <a href="#l4">listing 4</a> we see the primary core interface
API declaration.</p>
<figure id="l4">
 <dt>Listing 4. The primary core interface API declaration.</dt>
 <dd>
  <pre><code>interface PrimaryCore {
  boolean verifyDataLine();
  void sendData(in sequence&lt;byte> data);
  void initSelfDestruct();
}</code></pre>
 </dd>
</figure>
<p>The API is designed to use UTF-8.</p>

Here we see a figure element to mark up a photo.

<figure>
 <dd>
  <img src="bubbles-work.jpeg"
       alt="Bubbles, sitting in his office chair, works on his
            latest project intently.">
 </dd>
 <dt>Bubbles at work</dt>
</figure>

In this example, we see an image that is not a figure, as well as an image and a video that are.

<h2>Malinko's comics</h2>

<p>This case centered on some sort of "intellectual property"
infringement related to a comic (see Exhibit A). The suit started
after a trailer ending with these words:

<blockquote>
 <img src="promblem-packed-action.png" alt="ROUGH COPY! Promblem-Packed Action!">
</blockquote>

<p>...was aired. A lawyer, armed with a Bigger Notebook, launched a
preemptive strike using snowballs. A complete copy of the trailer is
included with Exhibit B.

<figure>
 <dd><img src="ex-a.png" alt="Two squiggles on a dirty piece of paper.">
 <dt>Exhibit A. The alleged <cite>rough copy</cite> comic.
</figure>

<figure>
 <dd><video src="ex-b.mov"></video>
 <dt>Exhibit B. The <cite>Rough Copy</cite> trailer.
</figure>

<p>The case was resolved out of court.

Here, a part of a poem is marked up using figure.

<figure>
 <dd>
  <p>'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves<br>
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;<br>
  All mimsy were the borogoves,<br>
  And the mome raths outgrabe.</p>
 </dd>
 <dt><cite>Jabberwocky</cite> (first verse). Lewis Carroll, 1832-98</dt>
</figure>

In this example, which could be part of a much larger work discussing a castle, the figure has three images in it.

<figure>
 <dd>
  <img src="castle1423.jpeg" title="Etching. Anonymous, ca. 1423."
       alt="The castle has one tower, and a tall wall around it.">
  <img src="castle1858.jpeg" title="Oil-based paint on canvas. Maria Towle, 1858."
       alt="The castle now has two towers and two walls.">
  <img src="castle1999.jpeg" title="Film photograph. Peter Jankle, 1999."
       alt="The castle lies in ruins, the original tower all that remains in one piece.">
 </dd>
 <dt>The castle through the ages: 1423, 1858, and 1999 respectively.</dt>
</figure>

4.8.2 The img element

Categories
Flow content.
Phrasing content.
Embedded content.
If the element has a usemap attribute: Interactive content.
Contexts in which this element may be used:
Where embedded content is expected.
Content model:
Empty.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
alt
src
usemap
ismap
width
height
DOM interface:
[NamedConstructor=Image(),
 NamedConstructor=Image(in unsigned long width),
 NamedConstructor=Image(in unsigned long width, in unsigned long height)]
interface HTMLImageElement : HTMLElement {
           attribute DOMString alt;
           attribute DOMString src;
           attribute DOMString useMap;
           attribute boolean isMap;
           attribute unsigned long width;
           attribute unsigned long height;
  readonly attribute unsigned long naturalWidth;
  readonly attribute unsigned long naturalHeight;
  readonly attribute boolean complete;
};

An img element represents an image.

The image given by the src attribute is the embedded content, and the value of the alt attribute is the img element's fallback content.

The src attribute must be present, and must contain a valid URL referencing a non-interactive, optionally animated, image resource that is neither paged nor scripted. If the base URI of the element is the same as the document's address, then the src attribute's value must not be the empty string.

Images can thus be static bitmaps (e.g. PNGs, GIFs, JPEGs), single-page vector documents (single-page PDFs, XML files with an SVG root element), animated bitmaps (APNGs, animated GIFs), animated vector graphics (XML files with an SVG root element that use declarative SMIL animation), and so forth. However, this also precludes SVG files with script, multipage PDF files, interactive MNG files, HTML documents, plain text documents, and so forth.

The requirements on the alt attribute's value are described in the next section.

The img must not be used as a layout tool. In particular, img elements should not be used to display transparent images, as they rarely convey meaning and rarely add anything useful to the document.


Unless the user agent cannot support images, or its support for images has been disabled, or the user agent only fetches elements on demand, or the element's src attribute has a value that is an ignored self-reference, then, when an img is created with a src attribute, and whenever the src attribute is set subsequently, the user agent must resolve the value of that attribute, relative to the element, and if that is successful must then fetch that resource.

The src attribute's value is an ignored self-reference if its value is the empty string, and the base URI of the element is the same as the document's address.

Fetching the image must delay the load event of the element's document until the task that is queued by the networking task source once the resource has been fetched (defined below) has been run.

This, unfortunately, can be used to perform a rudimentary port scan of the user's local network (especially in conjunction with scripting, though scripting isn't actually necessary to carry out such an attack). User agents may implement cross-origin access control policies that mitigate this attack.

If the image is in a supported image type and its dimensions are known, then the image is said to be available (this affects exactly what the element represents, as defined below). This can be true even before the image is completely downloaded, if the user agent supports incremental rendering of images; in such cases, each task that is queued by the networking task source while the image is being fetched must update the presentation of the image appropriately. It can also stop being true, e.g. if the user agent finds, after obtaining the image's dimensions, that the image data is actually fatally corrupted.

If the image was not fetched (e.g. because the UA's image support is disabled, or because the src attribute's value is an ignored self-reference), or if the conditions in the previous paragraph are not met, then the image is not available.

An image might be available in one view but not another. For instance, a Document could be rendered by a screen reader providing a speech synthesis view of the output of a Web browser using the screen media. In this case, the image would be available in the Web browser's screen view, but not available in the screen reader's view.

Whether the image is fetched successfully or not (e.g. whether the response code was a 2xx code or equivalent) must be ignored when determining the image's type and whether it is a valid image.

This allows servers to return images with error responses, and have them displayed.

The user agents should apply the image sniffing rules to determine the type of the image, with the image's associated Content-Type headers giving the official type. If these rules are not applied, then the type of the image must be the type given by the image's associated Content-Type headers.

User agents must not support non-image resources with the img element (e.g. XML files whose root element is an HTML element). User agents must not run executable code (e.g. scripts) embedded in the image resource. User agents must only display the first page of a multipage resource (e.g. a PDF file). User agents must not allow the resource to act in an interactive fashion, but should honor any animation in the resource.

This specification does not specify which image types are to be supported.

The task that is queued by the networking task source once the resource has been fetched, must act as appropriate given the following alternatives:

If the download was successful and the image is available
Queue a task to fire a simple event named load at the img element (this happens after complete starts returning true).
Otherwise (the fetching process failed without a response from the remote server, or completed but the image is not a supported image)
Queue a task to fire a simple event named error on the img element.

The task source for these tasks is the DOM manipulation task source.


What an img element represents depends on the src attribute and the alt attribute.

If the src attribute is set and the alt attribute is set to the empty string

The image is either decorative or supplemental to the rest of the content, redundant with some other information in the document.

If the image is available and the user agent is configured to display that image, then the element represents the image specified by the src attribute.

Otherwise, the element represents nothing, and may be omitted completely from the rendering. User agents may provide the user with a notification that an image is present but has been omitted from the rendering.

If the src attribute is set and the alt attribute is set to a value that isn't empty

The image is a key part of the content; the alt attribute gives a textual equivalent or replacement for the image.

If the image is available and the user agent is configured to display that image, then the element represents the image specified by the src attribute.

Otherwise, the element represents the text given by the alt attribute. User agents may provide the user with a notification that an image is present but has been omitted from the rendering.

If the src attribute is set and the alt attribute is not

The image might be a key part of the content, and there is no textual equivalent of the image available.

In a conforming document, the absence of the alt attribute indicates that the image is a key part of the content but that a textual replacement for the image was not available when the image was generated.

If the image is available, the element represents the image specified by the src attribute.

If the image is not available or if the user agent is not configured to display the image, then the user agent should display some sort of indicator that there is an image that is not being rendered, and may, if requested by the user, or if so configured, or when required to provide contextual information in response to navigation, provide caption information for the image, derived as follows:

  1. If the image has a title attribute whose value is not the empty string, then the value of that attribute is the caption information; abort these steps.

  2. If the image is the child of a figure element that has a child dt element, then the contents of the first such dt element are the caption information; abort these steps.

  3. Run the algorithm to create the outline for the document.

  4. If the img element did not end up associated with a heading in the outline, or if there are any other images that are lacking an alt attribute and that are associated with the same heading in the outline as the img element in question, then there is no caption information; abort these steps.

  5. The caption information is the heading with which the image is associated according to the outline.

If the src attribute is not set and either the alt attribute is set to the empty string or the alt attribute is not set at all

The element represents nothing.

Otherwise

The element represents the text given by the alt attribute.

The alt attribute does not represent advisory information. User agents must not present the contents of the alt attribute in the same way as content of the title attribute.

User agents may always provide the user with the option to display any image, or to prevent any image from being displayed. User agents may also apply image analysis heuristics to help the user make sense of the image when the user is unable to make direct use of the image, e.g. due to a visual disability or because they are using a text terminal with no graphics capabilities.

The contents of img elements, if any, are ignored for the purposes of rendering.


The usemap attribute, if present, can indicate that the image has an associated image map.

The ismap attribute, when used on an element that is a descendant of an a element with an href attribute, indicates by its presence that the element provides access to a server-side image map. This affects how events are handled on the corresponding a element.

The ismap attribute is a boolean attribute. The attribute must not be specified on an element that does not have an ancestor a element with an href attribute.

The img element supports dimension attributes.

The IDL attributes alt, src, useMap, and isMap each must reflect the respective content attributes of the same name.

image . width [ = value ]
image . height [ = value ]

These attributes return the actual rendered dimensions of the image, or zero if the dimensions are not known.

They can be set, to change the corresponding content attributes.

image . naturalWidth
image . naturalHeight

These attributes return the intrinsic dimensions of the image, or zero if the dimensions are not known.

image . complete

Returns true if the image has been downloaded, decoded, and found to be valid; otherwise, returns false.

image = new Image( [ width [, height ] ] )

Returns a new img element, with the width and height attributes set to the values passed in the relevant arguments, if applicable.

The IDL attributes width and height must return the rendered width and height of the image, in CSS pixels, if the image is being rendered, and is being rendered to a visual medium; or else the intrinsic width and height of the image, in CSS pixels, if the image is available but not being rendered to a visual medium; or else 0, if the image is not available. [CSS]

On setting, they must act as if they reflected the respective content attributes of the same name.

The IDL attributes naturalWidth and naturalHeight must return the intrinsic width and height of the image, in CSS pixels, if the image is available, or else 0. [CSS]

The IDL attribute complete must return true if the user agent has fetched the image specified in the src attribute, and it is in a supported image type (i.e. it was decoded without fatal errors), even if the final task queued by the networking task source for the fetching of the image resource has not yet been processed. Otherwise, the attribute must return false.

The value of complete can thus change while a script is executing.

Three constructors are provided for creating HTMLImageElement objects (in addition to the factory methods from DOM Core such as createElement()): Image(), Image(width), and Image(width, height). When invoked as constructors, these must return a new HTMLImageElement object (a new img element). If the width argument is present, the new object's width content attribute must be set to width. If the height argument is also present, the new object's height content attribute must be set to height. The element's document must be the active document of the browsing context of the Window object on which the interface object of the invoked constructor is found.

A single image can have different appropriate alternative text depending on the context.

In each of the following cases, the same image is used, yet the alt text is different each time. The image is the coat of arms of the Carouge municipality in the canton Geneva in Switzerland.

Here it is used as a supplementary icon:

<p>I lived in <img src="carouge.svg" alt=""> Carouge.</p>

Here it is used as an icon representing the town:

<p>Home town: <img src="carouge.svg" alt="Carouge"></p>

Here it is used as part of a text on the town:

<p>Carouge has a coat of arms.</p>
<p><img src="carouge.svg" alt="The coat of arms depicts a lion, sitting in front of a tree."></p>
<p>It is used as decoration all over the town.</p>

Here it is used as a way to support a similar text where the description is given as well as, instead of as an alternative to, the image:

<p>Carouge has a coat of arms.</p>
<p><img src="carouge.svg" alt=""></p>
<p>The coat of arms depicts a lion, sitting in front of a tree.
It is used as decoration all over the town.</p>

Here it is used as part of a story:

<p>He picked up the folder and a piece of paper fell out.</p>
<p><img src="carouge.svg" alt="Shaped like a shield, the paper had a
red background, a green tree, and a yellow lion with its tongue
hanging out and whose tail was shaped like an S."></p>
<p>He stared at the folder. S! The answer he had been looking for all
this time was simply the letter S! How had he not seen that before? It all
came together now. The phone call where Hector had referred to a lion's tail,
the time Marco had stuck his tongue out...</p>

Here it is not known at the time of publication what the image will be, only that it will be a coat of arms of some kind, and thus no replacement text can be provided, and instead only a brief caption for the image is provided, in the title attribute:

<p>The last user to have uploaded a coat of arms uploaded this one:</p>
<p><img src="last-uploaded-coat-of-arms.cgi" title="User-uploaded coat of arms."></p>

Ideally, the author would find a way to provide real replacement text even in this case, e.g. by asking the previous user. Not providing replacement text makes the document more difficult to use for people who are unable to view images, e.g. blind users, or users or very low-bandwidth connections or who pay by the byte, or users who are forced to use a text-only Web browser.

Here are some more examples showing the same picture used in different contexts, with different appropriate alternate texts each time.

<article>
 <h1>My cats</h1>
 <h2>Fluffy</h2>
 <p>Fluffy is my favorite.</p>
 <img src="fluffy.jpg" alt="She likes playing with a ball of yarn.">
 <p>She's just too cute.</p>
 <h2>Miles</h2>
 <p>My other cat, Miles just eats and sleeps.</p>
</article>
<article>
 <h1>Photography</h1>
 <h2>Shooting moving targets indoors</h2>
 <p>The trick here is to know how to anticipate; to know at what speed and
 what distance the subject will pass by.</p>
 <img src="fluffy.jpg" alt="A cat flying by, chasing a ball of yarn, can be
 photographed quite nicely using this technique.">
 <h2>Nature by night</h2>
 <p>To achieve this, you'll need either an extremely sensitive film, or
 immense flash lights.</p>
</article>
<article>
 <h1>About me</h1>
 <h2>My pets</h2>
 <p>I've got a cat named Fluffy and a dog named Miles.</p>
 <img src="fluffy.jpg" alt="Fluffy, my cat, tends to keep itself busy.">
 <p>My dog Miles and I like go on long walks together.</p>
 <h2>music</h2>
 <p>After our walks, having emptied my mind, I like listening to Bach.</p>
</article>
<article>
 <h1>Fluffy and the Yarn</h1>
 <p>Fluffy was a cat who liked to play with yarn. He also liked to jump.</p>
 <aside><img src="fluffy.jpg" alt="" title="Fluffy"></aside>
 <p>He would play in the morning, he would play in the evening.</p>
</article>
4.8.2.1 Requirements for providing text to act as an alternative for images

The requirements for the alt attribute depend on what the image is intended to represent, as described in the following sections.

When an a element that is a hyperlink, or a button element, has no textual content but contains one or more images, the alt attributes must contain text that together convey the purpose of the link or button.

In this example, a user is asked to pick his preferred color from a list of three. Each color is given by an image, but for users who have configured their user agent not to display images, the color names are used instead:

<h1>Pick your color</h1>
<ul>
 <li><a href="green.html"><img src="green.jpeg" alt="Green"></a></li>
 <li><a href="blue.html"><img src="blue.jpeg" alt="Blue"></a></li>
 <li><a href="red.html"><img src="red.jpeg" alt="Red"></a></li>
</ul>

In this example, each button has a set of images to indicate the kind of color output desired by the user. The first image is used in each case to give the alternative text.

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="RGB"><img src="green" alt=""><img src="blue" alt=""></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="CMYK"><img src="magenta" alt=""><img src="yellow" alt=""><img src="black" alt=""></button>

Since each image represents one part of the text, it could also be written like this:

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="R"><img src="green" alt="G"><img src="blue" alt="B"></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="C"><img src="magenta" alt="M"><img src="yellow" alt="Y"><img src="black" alt="K"></button>

However, with other alternative text, this might not work, and putting all the alternative text into one image in each case might make more sense:

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="sRGB profile"><img src="green" alt=""><img src="blue" alt=""></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="CMYK profile"><img src="magenta" alt=""><img src="yellow" alt=""><img src="black" alt=""></button>
4.8.2.1.2 A phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation: charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, illustrations

Sometimes something can be more clearly stated in graphical form, for example as a flowchart, a diagram, a graph, or a simple map showing directions. In such cases, an image can be given using the img element, but the lesser textual version must still be given, so that users who are unable to view the image (e.g. because they have a very slow connection, or because they are using a text-only browser, or because they are listening to the page being read out by a hands-free automobile voice Web browser, or simply because they are blind) are still able to understand the message being conveyed.

The text must be given in the alt attribute, and must convey the same message as the image specified in the src attribute.

It is important to realize that the alternative text is a replacement for the image, not a description of the image.

In the following example we have a flowchart in image form, with text in the alt attribute rephrasing the flowchart in prose form:

<p>In the common case, the data handled by the tokenization stage
comes from the network, but it can also come from script.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.png" alt="The network
passes data to the Tokenizer stage, which passes data to the Tree
Construction stage. From there, data goes to both the DOM and to
Script Execution. Script Execution is linked to the DOM, and, using
document.write(), passes data to the Tokenizer."></p>

Here's another example, showing a good solution and a bad solution to the problem of including an image in a description.

First, here's the good solution. This sample shows how the alternative text should just be what you would have put in the prose if the image had never existed.

<!-- This is the correct way to do things. -->
<p>
 You are standing in an open field west of a house.
 <img src="house.jpeg" alt="The house is white, with a boarded front door.">
 There is a small mailbox here.
</p>

Second, here's the bad solution. In this incorrect way of doing things, the alternative text is simply a description of the image, instead of a textual replacement for the image. It's bad because when the image isn't shown, the text doesn't flow as well as in the first example.

<!-- This is the wrong way to do things. -->
<p>
 You are standing in an open field west of a house.
 <img src="house.jpeg" alt="A white house, with a boarded front door.">
 There is a small mailbox here.
</p>

Text such as "Photo of white house with boarded door" would be equally bad alternative text (though it could be suitable for the title attribute or in the dt element of a figure with this image).

4.8.2.1.3 A short phrase or label with an alternative graphical representation: icons, logos

A document can contain information in iconic form. The icon is intended to help users of visual browsers to recognize features at a glance.

In some cases, the icon is supplemental to a text label conveying the same meaning. In those cases, the alt attribute must be present but must be empty.

Here the icons are next to text that conveys the same meaning, so they have an empty alt attribute:

<nav>
 <p><a href="/help/"><img src="/icons/help.png" alt=""> Help</a></p>
 <p><a href="/configure/"><img src="/icons/configuration.png" alt="">
 Configuration Tools</a></p>
</nav>

In other cases, the icon has no text next to it describing what it means; the icon is supposed to be self-explanatory. In those cases, an equivalent textual label must be given in the alt attribute.

Here, posts on a news site are labeled with an icon indicating their topic.

<body>
 <article>
  <header>
   <h1>Ratatouille wins <i>Best Movie of the Year</i> award</h1>
   <p><img src="movies.png" alt="Movies"></p>
  </header>
  <p>Pixar has won yet another <i>Best Movie of the Year</i> award,
  making this its 8th win in the last 12 years.</p>
 </article>
 <article>
  <header>
   <h1>Latest TWiT episode is online</h1>
   <p><img src="podcasts.png" alt="Podcasts"></p>
  </header>
  <p>The latest TWiT episode has been posted, in which we hear
  several tech news stories as well as learning much more about the
  iPhone. This week, the panelists compare how reflective their
  iPhones' Apple logos are.</p>
 </article>
</body>

Many pages include logos, insignia, flags, or emblems, which stand for a particular entity such as a company, organization, project, band, software package, country, or some such.

If the logo is being used to represent the entity, e.g. as a page heading, the alt attribute must contain the name of the entity being represented by the logo. The alt attribute must not contain text like the word "logo", as it is not the fact that it is a logo that is being conveyed, it's the entity itself.

If the logo is being used next to the name of the entity that it represents, then the logo is supplemental, and its alt attribute must instead be empty.

If the logo is merely used as decorative material (as branding, or, for example, as a side image in an article that mentions the entity to which the logo belongs), then the entry below on purely decorative images applies. If the logo is actually being discussed, then it is being used as a phrase or paragraph (the description of the logo) with an alternative graphical representation (the logo itself), and the first entry above applies.

In the following snippets, all four of the above cases are present. First, we see a logo used to represent a company:

<h1><img src="XYZ.gif" alt="The XYZ company"></h1>

Next, we see a paragraph which uses a logo right next to the company name, and so doesn't have any alternative text:

<article>
 <h2>News</h2>
 <p>We have recently been looking at buying the <img src="alpha.gif"
 alt=""> ΑΒΓ company, a small Greek company
 specializing in our type of product.</p>

In this third snippet, we have a logo being used in an aside, as part of the larger article discussing the acquisition:

 <aside><p><img src="alpha-large.gif" alt=""></p></aside>
 <p>The ΑΒΓ company has had a good quarter, and our
 pie chart studies of their accounts suggest a much bigger blue slice
 than its green and orange slices, which is always a good sign.</p>
</article>

Finally, we have an opinion piece talking about a logo, and the logo is therefore described in detail in the alternative text.

<p>Consider for a moment their logo:</p>

<p><img src="/images/logo" alt="It consists of a green circle with a
green question mark centered inside it."></p>

<p>How unoriginal can you get? I mean, oooooh, a question mark, how
<em>revolutionary</em>, how utterly <em>ground-breaking</em>, I'm
sure everyone will rush to adopt those specifications now! They could
at least have tried for some sort of, I don't know, sequence of
rounded squares with varying shades of green and bold white outlines,
at least that would look good on the cover of a blue book.</p>

This example shows how the alternative text should be written such that if the image isn't available, and the text is used instead, the text flows seamlessly into the surrounding text, as if the image had never been there in the first place.

4.8.2.1.4 Text that has been rendered to a graphic for typographical effect

Sometimes, an image just consists of text, and the purpose of the image is not to highlight the actual typographic effects used to render the text, but just to convey the text itself.

In such cases, the alt attribute must be present but must consist of the same text as written in the image itself.

Consider a graphic containing the text "Earth Day", but with the letters all decorated with flowers and plants. If the text is merely being used as a heading, to spice up the page for graphical users, then the correct alternative text is just the same text "Earth Day", and no mention need be made of the decorations:

<h1><img src="earthdayheading.png" alt="Earth Day"></h1>
4.8.2.1.5 A graphical representation of some of the surrounding text

In many cases, the image is actually just supplementary, and its presence merely reinforces the surrounding text. In these cases, the alt attribute must be present but its value must be the empty string.

In general, an image falls into this category if removing the image doesn't make the page any less useful, but including the image makes it a lot easier for users of visual browsers to understand the concept.

A flowchart that repeats the previous paragraph in graphical form:

<p>The network passes data to the Tokenizer stage, which
passes data to the Tree Construction stage. From there, data goes
to both the DOM and to Script Execution. Script Execution is
linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(), passes data to
the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.png" alt=""></p>

In these cases, it would be wrong to include alternative text that consists of just a caption. If a caption is to be included, then either the title attribute can be used, or the figure and dt elements can be used. In the latter case, the image would in fact be a phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation, and would thus require alternative text.

<!-- Using the title="" attribute -->
<p>The network passes data to the Tokenizer stage, which
passes data to the Tree Construction stage. From there, data goes
to both the DOM and to Script Execution. Script Execution is
linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(), passes data to
the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.png" alt=""
        title="Flowchart representation of the parsing model."></p>
<!-- Using <figure> and <dt> -->
<p>The network passes data to the Tokenizer stage, which
passes data to the Tree Construction stage. From there, data goes
to both the DOM and to Script Execution. Script Execution is
linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(), passes data to
the Tokenizer.</p>
<figure>
 <dd>
  <img src="images/parsing-model-overview.png" alt="The Network leads
  to the Tokenizer, which leads to the Tree Construction. The Tree
  Construction leads to two items. The first is Script Execution, which
  leads via document.write() back to the Tokenizer. The second item
  from which Tree Construction leads is the DOM. The DOM is related to
  the Script Execution.">
 </dd>
 <dt>Flowchart representation of the parsing model.</dt>
</figure>
<!-- This is WRONG. Do not do this. Instead, do what the above examples do. -->
<p>The network passes data to the Tokenizer stage, which
passes data to the Tree Construction stage. From there, data goes
to both the DOM and to Script Execution. Script Execution is
linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(), passes data to
the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.png"
        alt="Flowchart representation of the parsing model."></p>
<!-- Never put the image's caption in the alt="" attribute! -->

A graph that repeats the previous paragraph in graphical form:

<p>According to a study covering several billion pages,
about 62% of documents on the Web in 2007 triggered the Quirks
rendering mode of Web browsers, about 30% triggered the Almost
Standards mode, and about 9% triggered the Standards mode.</p>
<p><img src="rendering-mode-pie-chart.png" alt=""></p>
4.8.2.1.6 A purely decorative image that doesn't add any information

In general, if an image is decorative but isn't especially page-specific, for example an image that forms part of a site-wide design scheme, the image should be specified in the site's CSS, not in the markup of the document.

However, a decorative image that isn't discussed by the surrounding text still has some relevance can be included in a page using the img element. Such images are decorative, but still form part of the content. In these cases, the alt attribute must be present but its value must be the empty string.

Examples where the image is purely decorative despite being relevant would include things like a photo of the Black Rock City landscape in a blog post about an event at Burning Man, or an image of a painting inspired by a poem, on a page reciting that poem. The following snippet shows an example of the latter case (only the first verse is included in this snippet):

<h1>The Lady of Shalott</h1>
<p><img src="shalott.jpeg" alt=""></p>
<p>On either side the river lie<br>
Long fields of barley and of rye,<br>
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;<br>
And through the field the road run by<br>
To many-tower'd Camelot;<br>
And up and down the people go,<br>
Gazing where the lilies blow<br>
Round an island there below,<br>
The island of Shalott.</p>

When a picture has been sliced into smaller image files that are then displayed together to form the complete picture again, one of the images must have its alt attribute set as per the relevant rules that would be appropriate for the picture as a whole, and then all the remaining images must have their alt attribute set to the empty string.

In the following example, a picture representing a company logo for XYZ Corp has been split into two pieces, the first containing the letters "XYZ" and the second with the word "Corp". The alternative text ("XYZ Corp") is all in the first image.

<h1><img src="logo1.png" alt="XYZ Corp"><img src="logo2.png" alt=""></h1>

In the following example, a rating is shown as three filled stars and two empty stars. While the alternative text could have been "★★★☆☆", the author has instead decided to more helpfully give the rating in the form "3 out of 5". That is the alternative text of the first image, and the rest have blank alternative text.

<p>Rating: <meter max=5 value=3><img src="1" alt="3 out of 5"
  ><img src="1" alt=""><img src="1" alt=""><img src="0" alt=""
  ><img src="0" alt=""></meter></p>

Generally, image maps should be used instead of slicing an image for links.

However, if an image is indeed sliced and any of the components of the sliced picture are the sole contents of links, then one image per link must have alternative text in its alt attribute representing the purpose of the link.

In the following example, a picture representing the flying spaghetti monster emblem, with each of the left noodly appendages and the right noodly appendages in different images, so that the user can pick the left side or the right side in an adventure.

<h1>The Church</h1>
<p>You come across a flying spaghetti monster. Which side of His
Noodliness do you wish to reach out for?</p>
<p><a href="?go=left" ><img src="fsm-left.png"  alt="Left side. "></a
  ><img src="fsm-middle.png" alt=""
  ><a href="?go=right"><img src="fsm-right.png" alt="Right side."></a></p>
4.8.2.1.9 A key part of the content

In some cases, the image is a critical part of the content. This could be the case, for instance, on a page that is part of a photo gallery. The image is the whole point of the page containing it.

How to provide alternative text for an image that is a key part of the content depends on the image's provenance.

The general case

When it is possible for detailed alternative text to be provided, for example if the image is part of a series of screenshots in a magazine review, or part of a comic strip, or is a photograph in a blog entry about that photograph, text that can serve as a substitute for the image must be given as the contents of the alt attribute.

A screenshot in a gallery of screenshots for a new OS, with some alternative text:

<figure>
 <dd>
  <img src="KDE%20Light%20desktop.png"
       alt="The desktop is blue, with icons along the left hand side in
            two columns, reading System, Home, K-Mail, etc. A window is
            open showing that menus wrap to a second line if they
            cannot fit in the window. The window has a list of icons
            along the top, with an address bar below it, a list of
            icons for tabs along the left edge, a status bar on the
            bottom, and two panes in the middle. The desktop has a bar
            at the bottom of the screen with a few buttons, a pager, a
            list of open applications, and a clock.">
 </dd>
 <dt>Screenshot of a KDE desktop.</dt>
</figure>

A graph in a financial report:

<img src="sales.gif"
     title="Sales graph"
     alt="From 1998 to 2005, sales increased by the following percentages
     with each year: 624%, 75%, 138%, 40%, 35%, 9%, 21%">

Note that "sales graph" would be inadequate alternative text for a sales graph. Text that would be a good caption is not generally suitable as replacement text.

Images that defy a complete description

In certain cases, the nature of the image might be such that providing thorough alternative text is impractical. For example, the image could be indistinct, or could be a complex fractal, or could be a detailed topographical map.

In these cases, the alt attribute must contain some suitable alternative text, but it may be somewhat brief.

Sometimes there simply is no text that can do justice to an image. For example, there is little that can be said to usefully describe a Rorschach inkblot test. However, a description, even if brief, is still better than nothing:

<figure>
 <dd><img src="/commons/a/a7/Rorschach1.jpg" alt="A shape with left-right
 symmetry with indistinct edges, with a small gap in the center, two
 larger gaps offset slightly from the center, with two similar gaps
 under them. The outline is wider in the top half than the bottom
 half, with the sides extending upwards higher than the center, and
 the center extending below the sides."></dd>
 <dt>A black outline of the first of the ten cards
 in the Rorschach inkblot test.</dt>
</figure>

Note that the following would be a very bad use of alternative text:

<!-- This example is wrong. Do not copy it. -->
<figure>
 <dd><img src="/commons/a/a7/Rorschach1.jpg" alt="A black outline
 of the first of the ten cards in the Rorschach inkblot test."></dd>
 <dt>A black outline of the first of the ten cards
 in the Rorschach inkblot test.</dt>
</figure>

Including the caption in the alternative text like this isn't useful because it effectively duplicates the caption for users who don't have images, taunting them twice yet not helping them any more than if they had only read or heard the caption once.

Another example of an image that defies full description is a fractal, which, by definition, is infinite in detail.

The following example shows one possible way of providing alternative text for the full view of an image of the Mandelbrot set.

<img src="ms1.jpeg" alt="The Mandelbrot set appears as a cardioid with
its cusp on the real axis in the positive direction, with a smaller
bulb aligned along the same center line, touching it in the negative
direction, and with these two shapes being surrounded by smaller bulbs
of various sizes.">
Images whose contents are not known

In some unfortunate cases, there might be no alternative text available at all, either because the image is obtained in some automated fashion without any associated alternative text (e.g. a Webcam), or because the page is being generated by a script using user-provided images where the user did not provide suitable or usable alternative text (e.g. photograph sharing sites), or because the author does not himself know what the images represent (e.g. a blind photographer sharing an image on his blog).

In such cases, the alt attribute's value may be omitted, but one of the following conditions must be met as well:

Such cases are to be kept to an absolute minimum. If there is even the slightest possibility of the author having the ability to provide real alternative text, then it would not be acceptable to omit the alt attribute.

A photo on a photo-sharing site, if the site received the image with no metadata other than the caption:

<figure>
 <dd><img src="1100670787_6a7c664aef.jpg"></dd>
 <dt>Bubbles traveled everywhere with us.</dt>
</figure>

It could also be marked up like this:

<article>
 <h1>Bubbles traveled everywhere with us.</h1>
 <img src="1100670787_6a7c664aef.jpg">
</article>

In either case, though, it would be better if a detailed description of the important parts of the image obtained from the user and included on the page.

A blind user's blog in which a photo taken by the user is shown. Initially, the user might not have any idea what the photo he took shows:

<article>
 <h1>I took a photo</h1>
 <p>I went out today and took a photo!</p>
 <figure>
  <dd><img src="photo2.jpeg"></dd>
  <dt>A photograph taken blindly from my front porch.</dt>
 </figure>
</article>

Eventually though, the user might obtain a description of the image from his friends and could then include alternative text:

<article>
 <h1>I took a photo</h1>
 <p>I went out today and took a photo!</p>
 <figure>
  <dd><img src="photo2.jpeg" alt="The photograph shows my hummingbird
  feeder hanging from the edge of my roof. It is half full, but there
  are no birds around. In the background, out-of-focus trees fill the
  shot. The feeder is made of wood with a metal grate, and it contains
  peanuts. The edge of the roof is wooden too, and is painted white
  with light blue streaks."></dd>
  <dt>A photograph taken blindly from my front porch.</dt>
 </figure>
</article>

Sometimes the entire point of the image is that a textual description is not available, and the user is to provide the description. For instance, the point of a CAPTCHA image is to see if the user can literally read the graphic. Here is one way to mark up a CAPTCHA (note the title attribute):

<p><label>What does this image say?
<img src="captcha.cgi?id=8934" title="CAPTCHA">
<input type=text name=captcha></label>
(If you cannot see the image, you can use an <a
href="?audio">audio</a> test instead.)</p>

Another example would be software that displays images and asks for alternative text precisely for the purpose of then writing a page with correct alternative text. Such a page could have a table of images, like this:

<table>
 <thead>
  <tr> <th> Image <th> Description
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <td> <img src="2421.png" title="Image 640 by 100, filename 'banner.gif'">
   <td> <input name="alt2421">
  <tr>
   <td> <img src="2422.png" title="Image 200 by 480, filename 'ad3.gif'">
   <td> <input name="alt2422">
</table>

Notice that even in this example, as much useful information as possible is still included in the title attribute.

Since some users cannot use images at all (e.g. because they have a very slow connection, or because they are using a text-only browser, or because they are listening to the page being read out by a hands-free automobile voice Web browser, or simply because they are blind), the alt attribute is only allowed to be omitted rather than being provided with replacement text when no alternative text is available and none can be made available, as in the above examples. Lack of effort from the part of the author is not an acceptable reason for omitting the alt attribute.

4.8.2.1.10 An image not intended for the user

Generally authors should avoid using img elements for purposes other than showing images.

If an img element is being used for purposes other than showing an image, e.g. as part of a service to count page views, then the alt attribute must be the empty string.

In such cases, the width and height attributes should both be set to zero.

4.8.2.1.11 An image in an e-mail or private document intended for a specific person who is known to be able to view images

This section does not apply to documents that are publicly accessible, or whose target audience is not necessarily personally known to the author, such as documents on a Web site, e-mails sent to public mailing lists, or software documentation.

When an image is included in a private communication (such as an HTML e-mail) aimed at a specific person who is known to be able to view images, the alt attribute may be omitted. However, even in such cases it is strongly recommended that alternative text be included (as appropriate according to the kind of image involved, as described in the above entries), so that the e-mail is still usable should the user use a mail client that does not support images, or should the document be forwarded on to other users whose abilities might not include easily seeing images.

4.8.2.1.12 General guidelines

The most general rule to consider when writing alternative text is the following: the intent is that replacing every image with the text of its alt attribute not change the meaning of the page.

So, in general, alternative text can be written by considering what one would have written had one not been able to include the image.

A corollary to this is that the alt attribute's value should never contain text that could be considered the image's caption, title, or legend. It is supposed to contain replacement text that could be used by users instead of the image; it is not meant to supplement the image. The title attribute can be used for supplemental information.

One way to think of alternative text is to think about how you would read the page containing the image to someone over the phone, without mentioning that there is an image present. Whatever you say instead of the image is typically a good start for writing the alternative text.

4.8.2.1.13 Guidance for markup generators

Markup generators (such as WYSIWYG authoring tools) should, wherever possible, obtain alternative text from their users. However, it is recognized that in many cases, this will not be possible.

For images that are the sole contents of links, markup generators should examine the link target to determine the title of the target, or the URL of the target, and use information obtained in this manner as the alternative text.

As a last resort, implementors should either set the alt attribute to the empty string, under the assumption that the image is a purely decorative image that doesn't add any information but is still specific to the surrounding content, or omit the alt attribute altogether, under the assumption that the image is a key part of the content.

Markup generators should generally avoid using the image's own file name as the alternative text.

4.8.2.1.14 Guidance for conformance checkers

A conformance checker must report the lack of an alt attribute as an error unless either the conditions listed above for images whose contents are not known apply, or the conformance checker has been configured to assume that the document is an e-mail or document intended for a specific person who is known to be able to view images, or the document has a meta element with a name attribute whose value is an ASCII case-insensitive match for the string "generator".