[whatwg] <a href="" ping="">

ROBO Design robodesign at gmail.com
Fri Oct 21 12:53:10 PDT 2005

On Fri, 21 Oct 2005 21:43:59 +0300, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:

> One of the patterns I've seen a lot while looking at big sites is this:
>    <a href="record?url=http%3A%2F%2Ffoo.example.com/"> Foo </a>
> ...where "redirect" is a CGI script that records that the user followed
> the link, and that then redirects the user to the real page (potentially
> setting a cookie in the process).
> This is used for four main reasons:
>  1. Improving sites, by getting data regarding how users use the site.
>  2. Keeping track of which adverts were clicked on, for book-keeping.
>  3. Improving services, e.g. by offering a number of options, checking
>     which the user picked, and making that one be the first on the list
>     the next time the user uses the service.
>  4. Uniquely identifying and tracking a user for evil purposes.
> Sometimes more than one of the above is done, e.g. clicking on adverts
> sometimes informs the publisher and the advertiser before moving the user
> to the real destination.
> The problem at the moment is that the redirect mechanism obscures the
> eventual target URI. It would be good to have the target URI separate
> from the tracking URIs, so that the UA can show each of them separately  
> in
> the UI, indicating the user who is getting told what.
> Doing this would also allow the UA to easily turn off the pinging thing
> for users who are worried about point 4 above.
> Bearing the above in mind, I've added a section to the <a> element that
> describes a ping="" attribute. The URIs given in this attribute would be
> followed when the user clicks the link, thus getting around the problems
> listed above.
> Now, because of number 4 above, I'm guessing this is going to be
> controversial, which is why I'm calling this out explicitly (as opposed  
> to
> waiting til I've filled in all the TBW sections and then just asking for  
> a
> general review, since people might miss it if I did that).
> Thoughts? Is it evil?
>    http://whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#ping

Yes, it's evil. That's my first impression. Actually, very evil.

Yet, I want it :).

Here are my thoughts on this one.

- Very, very good idea. Yet, we don't live in a perfect world.
- Developers will still use the old trick in the book. So, they won't give  
a ... link :) about the ping attribute.
- You could enforce the usage of ping attribute if ... you specifically  
disallow usage of the tracking trick devs currently use. Yet, this is  
- The way you currently defined the ping= attribute is ... a bit ...  
dislikable. I mean, you allow the usage of third-party URLs for pinging.  
Now... if I want to annoy my friend (and flood his server), I just put a  
ping= attribute pointing to his server? I would enforce the usage of ping=  
URLs only on the server of the page.
- Why multiple ping= URLs? It's useful ... if you allow usage of different  
servers. Yet, if you apply my above suggestion, then ... multiple pings  
are no longer needed.
- Nobody would really make use of it. As people actually currently ignore  
the existing web standards (talking about invalid HTML 4 with tables for  
layout instead of CSS). Those who will use ping= will be ... me ... you  
.... and all those who do standards-based web sites today (less than a  
quarter of existing web "developers"). Would be yet-another thing for ...  
puritans :) (or how they call us) to brag about in their "perfect" sites.

It really depends what you want: to give the users something better ... or  
developers and companies. If you want to give users something better ...  
you'd probably do what I said above. If you want to give companies "power"  
then just forbid disabling the use of ping= in implementations. Yet,  
having a separate link always gives a window of escaping, if you know what  
I mean. For companies, they would be happier to just not add ping= (see  
why I said it's evil?).

Anyway, congratulations on the idea. Very good one. Curious how it will  
turn out.

ROBO Design - We bring you the future

More information about the whatwg mailing list