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

Tyler Close tyler.close at gmail.com
Thu Jan 19 11:27:30 PST 2006

On Wed, 18 Jan 2006 23:38:41 +0600, James Graham <jg307 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> And boy does it suggest this feature will be a marketing problem :(
> Darin Fisher blogged the Mozilla implementation[1] and received a stream
> of comments, many from people who clearly haven't thought about how easy
> tracking already is, to the effect that they will never use a browser
> with this feature etc.

I think the "ping" attribute is a great feature and I also think it's
great that the cited presentation of the feature provoked the reaction
that it did. Having a user base that expresses demand for privacy and
security is crucial to actually getting some privacy and security,
which is something I sorely want. The problem here is the
presentation. In reality, the "ping" attribute is a net plus for
privacy and security, not a new threat. The feature needs to be
presented as something that will be applauded by "privacy conscious
folks", not something that will "raise some eye-brows". I will
certainly applaud it.

As is noted in the cited blog post, web sites already have the ability
to track link clicks and many do so. This ability to track link clicks
also isn't a bug in the design, but a natural consequence of the
application: the server chooses what links to present to the user.
That's just the nature of the Web, resources can choose what to link
to. They can link back to their own site, or they can link into
another site. The problem is that the current HTML design forces sites
to use a layer of indirection to track link clicks to external sites.
This layer of indirection is a problem for usability, performance and
design complexity. It's a usability problem because the real link
target is obscured, so using the right-click menu to copy the link, or
bookmark it, will not yield the expected results. It's a performance
problem because the link traversals are done serially. It causes
design complexity because the programmer must remember to wrap all
links to external sites in a reference to a redirector.

I think it would be fair to characterize current techniques for link
click tracking as "opaque". In contrast, the proposed "ping" attribute
explicitly declares in the HTML what is intended and how it will
happen. Perhaps the right way to explain the "ping" attribute is as
providing transparent, or explicit, feedback; shining a light on the
dark corners of click tracking. If it is explained that the feature
will make link click tracking explicit, controllable and more usable,
I think the user base will react more positively.


The web-calculus is the union of REST and capability-based security:

Name your trusted sites to distinguish them from phishing sites.

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