[whatwg] Safari-compatible <input type="search">

Andy Lyttle whatwg at phroggy.com
Tue Sep 30 04:40:23 PDT 2008

I would like Apple's <input type="search"> adopted as an official  
standard, maintaining Safari compatibility.  Attributes are:

onsearch="foo();" - JavaScript function called when the user  
initiates a search

incremental - if present, onsearch fires on every keypress, and on  
clicking the cancel button; otherwise onsearch fires when pressing Enter

results - if present, shows a little magnifying glass icon, which  
helps to visually identify the field as a search box

results=10 - the magnifying glass functions as a drop-down menu  
containing a history of the last (whatever number) search terms

autosave="foo" - define a unique name to identify the search history  
(so the same history may be shared across multiple search boxes, even  
across different domains)

All other attributes of <input type="text"> are also supported,  
including placeholder.  Apple's implementation adds a cancel (x)  
button which appears whenever text has been typed into the box;  
clicking the cancel button clears the text without removing focus.   
They also use rounded corners to make search boxes visually distinct  
from plain text boxes.

Web sites are already implementing some of this functionality through  
JavaScript, CSS and graphics.  Examples of Apple's visual appearance  
(rounded corners and magnifying glass):
http://www.britannica.com/ (but doesn't hide the cancel button when  

Other examples of search fields with a variety of non-square corners:

Examples of incremental search functionality using AJAX:

At first glance it looks like onsearch (when combined with  
incremental) is identical to oninput, but onsearch fires after a  
slight delay, so that if the user rapidly types multiple characters,  
the search doesn't begin until after a sufficient pause in typing.   
For AJAX queries (or CPU-intensive client-side processing), this  
behavior is much better than using oninput, which fires for every  
single keystroke.  Of course the behavior of onsearch could be  
emulated through JavaScript, but having onsearch eliminates the need  
to reinvent that wheel.

I really like having a little magnifying glass icon that I don't have  
to draw myself (or steal from somewhere) and then use crazy CSS  
tricks to get it to look like it's inside the search box.  The  
implementation can be platform-specific of course; for example on  
Windows the magnifying glass might look like this:
and that could be replaced by a cancel button when you start typing:

Safari has supported these features for some time, and we should not  
break compatibility with them:

Google has said they'd like to be compatible with Safari:

The main thing is, if these features were standardized, more sites  
would use them instead of trying to come up with something clever on  
their own, which would lead to more consistency across sites and a  
better user experience.


Andy Lyttle
whatwg at phroggy.com

More information about the whatwg mailing list