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

Lachlan Hunt lachlan.hunt at lachy.id.au
Sat Oct 22 03:25:17 PDT 2005

Ian Hickson 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.
>  ...
>  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.

How are those two any different from each other, except that #3 gave a 
specific example of how the data could be used.  Anyway, why would that 
require an extra ping?  Couldn't that be determined just from which 
pages they access in the site/service?

> Thoughts? Is it evil?

It's not evil in itself, but, like anything, its potential applications 
could be used for evil.  It's like cookies.  They're not inherently evil 
and, indeed, sometimes very useful, but their abuse for evil purposes 
gave them a bad reputation.

However, I agree with others that its unreliability will be a major 
issue affecting wide spread adoption in favour of using redirects.

It could be defined in reverse, where the ping attribute (probably given 
a more suitable name, but I'll use ping for now) could be advisory 
information about the final destination and the href attribute defines 
the ping destination, such that following the href attribute would 
perform a redirect, but WA1 UAs could use the URI in the ping attribute 
to notify the user of the final destination (such as displaying it in 
the status bar).

In other words, advertisers and others that use such tracking, still do 
so in exactly the same way that they currently do.  However, the ping 
attribute (or whatever it gets called) helps to provide the better UI, 
so the user knows where they should end up.

Lachlan Hunt

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