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Bug 7736 - add tooltip attribute & keep title for other uses
Summary: add tooltip attribute & keep title for other uses
Alias: None
Product: HTML WG
Classification: Unclassified
Component: pre-LC1 HTML Microdata (editor: Ian Hickson) (show other bugs)
Version: unspecified
Hardware: All All
: P3 enhancement
Target Milestone: ---
Assignee: Ian 'Hixie' Hickson
QA Contact: HTML WG Bugzilla archive list
Keywords: NE
Depends on:
Reported: 2009-09-26 22:11 UTC by Nick Levinson
Modified: 2010-10-05 13:03 UTC (History)
5 users (show)

See Also:


Description Nick Levinson 2009-09-26 22:11:36 UTC
The title attribute has multiple uses, sometimes confusingly. They mainly support tooltips. In the abbr and old acronym elements, they commonly support both tooltips and text-to-speech (TTS) pronunciations. In another element or two or so, they have other uses.

While tooltips are often positive, they can interfere with a user experience when they pop up but don't add useful information or even are interesting. To turn them off requires not having the title attribute but that denies text-to-speech support (in their absence, TTS generates default pronunciations, which may be wrong and even hard to comprehend).

E.g., the form "<abbr title="+15553676287">+1-555-FORMATS</abbr>" is required in the hCard spec ( (as accessed 9-22-09)) but it leads to a TTS error if the page author wants TTS to say "1 5 5 5 formats". The error is not W3C's but is due to a shortage of attributes to serve the range of needs in the wild.

A more semantic and dedicated attribute would clarify page authors' intentions.

I propose a tooltip attribute for most or all elements that could appear in a body element.

The title attribute should be kept for other uses but its use for tooltips should be deprecated.

Thank you.

Comment 1 Maciej Stachowiak 2009-09-29 07:39:25 UTC
Wouldn't it be more useful to have an attribute for descriptive information that doesn't display as a tooltip at all, either in future or existing browsers? Then title="" can then be reserved for use cases that do want a tooltip. Adding a tooltip attribute would not solve the problem that the abbr markup you cited produces a tooltip.
Comment 2 Ian 'Hixie' Hickson 2009-09-29 11:00:18 UTC
The example you give is non-conforming HTML5; title="" isn't allowed to be used like that per HTML5.

Microdata uses <meta> for including data like this.
Comment 3 Nick Levinson 2009-10-04 23:02:55 UTC
> Wouldn't it be more useful to have an attribute for descriptive information that doesn't display as a tooltip at all, either in future or existing browsers? . . . .
Either approach would fulfill demand and either approach would have the same problem of version compatibility. Since there's a general goal of keeping HTML and other languages semantic, I think an attribute meant for tooltips should be called tooltip, and something for multiple or residual uses should have a more general name, for which title, already established, will do.

> title="" isn't allowed to be used like that . . . .
Okay, thus the need for more methods to satisfy needs.

Use for TTS seemed to be widespread a while back, causing a usability conflict with tooltips use.

Both TTS and microformats have good use cases, and both are being shoehorned into the title attribute. We should hand out a more comfortable shoe, i.e., a more semantic attribute.

> Microdata uses <meta> for including data like this.
No, as to microformats. And that's complicated.

They don't use meta now (<>, Property Notes, n. 2, & Human vs. Machine readable, as accessed 10-3-09). The latter says, "If an <abbr> element is used for a property, then the 'title' attribute (if present) of the <abbr> element is the value of the property, instead of the contents of the element, which instead provide a more human presentable version of the value."

If they should use meta, they'll have to amend, but using meta in a head makes parsing of an hCard microformat in a body much more complicated, because page authors will have to write much larger heads and engines will have to apply many more steps. Adding an attribute seems simpler.
Comment 4 Ian 'Hixie' Hickson 2009-10-18 10:21:54 UTC
I didn't say microformats, I said microdata.

As far as I can tell, <meta> is the solution to your request.
Comment 5 Nick Levinson 2009-10-18 21:12:39 UTC
My errors in conflating microdata and microformats, as acknowledged in <>, when I saw the new provisions, and in not noticing till now that now meta is allowed in body for flow and phrasing if it has the itemprop attribute.

Comment 6 Maciej Stachowiak 2010-03-14 14:51:51 UTC
This bug predates the HTML Working Group Decision Policy.

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