Long descriptions and political cartoons

One of the still open issues with HTML5 is the lack of a verbose descriptor for an image, since the longdesc attribute was made obsolete.

The longdesc attribute used to take a URL to a separate page or page fragment that contained a long text description for a complex or highly nuanced image. Typically, the only ones made aware of the attribute were screen reader users, though some browsers, such as Opera, provided access to the long description via the the right mouse button menu.

However, longdesc was made obsolete because, supposedly, there was no justification for its continued existence.

There is no better justification for a verbose descriptor/longdesc, though, than political cartoons, as I demonstrate over at Puppies @ Burningbird.

The argument that the material describing the image can be repeated in the page just doesn’t fly. To repeat the image data textually, just before or after the image, not only detracts from the image, it lessens the impact the political cartoon intends.

At the same time, political cartoons are highly sophisticated bits of imagery, which can’t be described in a small blurb in an alt attribute. They also provide essential information, because political cartoons are created specifically to convey important arguments about ongoing political and other activities.

It’s just plain asinine to fight against such a valuable aid as longdesc, or any equivalent, with the vehemence that the WhatWG participants in the W3C HTML WG have displayed.

Well, thank goodness HTML5 no longer exists and we live in a time of a versionless, living standards HTML. Since HTML now exists along an unbroken continuum, from the beginning to infinity, and since longdesc was a valid attribute at an early point in this continuum, longdesc remains valid…now, and forever.

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