4.6.1 The a element

Flow content.
Phrasing content.
Interactive content.
Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where phrasing content is expected.
Content model:
Transparent, but there must be no interactive content descendant.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
DOM interface:
interface HTMLAnchorElement : HTMLElement {
  stringifier attribute DOMString href;
           attribute DOMString target;

           attribute DOMString rel;
  readonly attribute DOMTokenList relList;
           attribute DOMString media;
           attribute DOMString hreflang;
           attribute DOMString type;

           attribute DOMString text;

  // URL decomposition IDL attributes
           attribute DOMString protocol;
           attribute DOMString host;
           attribute DOMString hostname;
           attribute DOMString port;
           attribute DOMString pathname;
           attribute DOMString search;
           attribute DOMString hash;

If the a element has an href attribute, then it represents a hyperlink (a hypertext anchor).

If the a element has no href attribute, then the element represents a placeholder for where a link might otherwise have been placed, if it had been relevant.

The target, rel, media, hreflang, and type attributes must be omitted if the href attribute is not present.

If a site uses a consistent navigation toolbar on every page, then the link that would normally link to the page itself could be marked up using an a element:

  <li> <a href="/">Home</a> </li>
  <li> <a href="/news">News</a> </li>
  <li> <a>Examples</a> </li>
  <li> <a href="/legal">Legal</a> </li>

The href, target, attributes affect what happens when users follow hyperlinks created using the a element. The rel, media, hreflang, and type attributes may be used to indicate to the user the likely nature of the target resource before the user follows the link.

The activation behavior of a elements that create hyperlinks is to run the following steps:

  1. If the algorithm is not allowed to show a pop-up and either the a element's target attribute is present and applying the rules for choosing a browsing context given a browsing context name, using the value of the target attribute as the browsing context name, would result in there not being a chosen browsing context, then throw an InvalidAccessError exception and abort these steps.

  2. If the target of the click event is an img element with an ismap attribute specified, then server-side image map processing must be performed, as follows:

    1. If the click event was a real pointing-device-triggered click event on the img element, then let x be the distance in CSS pixels from the left edge of the image's left border, if it has one, or the left edge of the image otherwise, to the location of the click, and let y be the distance in CSS pixels from the top edge of the image's top border, if it has one, or the top edge of the image otherwise, to the location of the click. Otherwise, let x and y be zero.
    2. Let the hyperlink suffix be a U+003F QUESTION MARK character, the value of x expressed as a base-ten integer using ASCII digits, a "," (U+002C) character, and the value of y expressed as a base-ten integer using ASCII digits. ASCII digits are the characters in the range ASCII digits.
  3. Finally, the user agent must follow the hyperlink created by the a element, as determined by any expressed user preference. If the steps above defined a hyperlink suffix, then take that into account when following or downloading the hyperlink.

a . text

Same as textContent.

The IDL attributes href, target, rel, media, hreflang, and type, must reflect the respective content attributes of the same name.

The IDL attribute relList must reflect the rel content attribute.

The text IDL attribute, on getting, must return the same value as the textContent IDL attribute on the element, and on setting, must act as if the textContent IDL attribute on the element had been set to the new value.

The a element also supports the complement of URL decomposition IDL attributes, protocol, host, port, hostname, pathname, search, and hash. These must follow the rules given for URL decomposition IDL attributes, with the input being the result of resolving the element's href attribute relative to the element, if there is such an attribute and resolving it is successful, or the empty string otherwise; and the common setter action being the same as setting the element's href attribute to the new output value.

The a element may be wrapped around entire paragraphs, lists, tables, and so forth, even entire sections, so long as there is no interactive content within (e.g. buttons or other links). This example shows how this can be used to make an entire advertising block into a link:

<aside class="advertising">
 <a href="http://ad.example.com/?adid=1929&amp;pubid=1422">
   <h1>Mellblomatic 9000!</h1>
   <p>Turn all your widgets into mellbloms!</p>
   <p>Only $9.99 plus shipping and handling.</p>
 <a href="http://ad.example.com/?adid=375&amp;pubid=1422">
   <h1>The Mellblom Browser</h1>
   <p>Web browsing at the speed of light.</p>
   <p>No other browser goes faster!</p>