[whatwg] A thought: <a href="..." method="post">

James Graham jg307 at cam.ac.uk
Sat May 7 16:36:47 PDT 2005

Henri Sivonen wrote:
>> One of the issues is that doing the Right Thing means creating a form, 
>> and that effects the UI,
> There'd be a design bug somewhere if the UI wasn't affected! When 
> something looks like a link to, the user has a good reason to expect 
> that following the link causes a safe retrieval operation. When 
> something looks like a button, the user has a reason to understand that 
> pressing the button may cause an unsafe operation.

I'm not sure that users (the vast majority of users who haven't even 
heard the term RFC, let alone read one) have any particular expectation 
for the safety of clicking on a link. The fact that so many webapps use 
links for unsafe operations kind-of supports that view. Plus, design 
_is_ important in these things and submit-style buttons don't always 
make good UI.

Consider the example of a webmail application. These often allow 
messages to be retrieved by clicking on hyperlinks containing the 
subject line*. This is apparently all well and good because retrieving a 
message is sounds like a simple GET-friendly operation. Except that the 
act of retrieving a message often has the side effect of marking the 
message read in some way (not an unsafe operation per-se but one that 
should only be initiated by a user). So with the current HTML spec, one 
has the option of a) using hyperlinks to retrieve messages so sticking 
with a familiar and well understood UI paradigm but violating HTTP and 
breaking e.g. precaching in UAs, b) using some sort of form for retrieve 
messages so making the UI ugly and probably harder to navigate, 
especially for users familiar with  approach a), or c) requiring 
scripting for basic functionality (retrieving messages and/or marking 
read messages as read).

Allowing <a href="..." method="post"> would, AFAICT, solve this kind of 

*I don't claim this is the optimum UI but it is certianly much the most 
common UI I have experienced in webmail applications.

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