IE9 Pinned Sites; a lot of cruft in your <head>

By crisp on Wednesday 22 September 2010 00:14 - Comments (18)
Categories: Browsers, Tweakers.net, Views: 18.873

While Microsoft is generally going into the right direction with version 9 of Internet Explorer when it comes to standards compliance they couldn't resist to built-in some new proprietary features. One of those is the so-called 'Pinned Sites' feature which makes it possible to 'pin' websites to the taskbar in Windows 7 making them part of the desktop as if they were applications.

Even though this is actually a nice feature if you happen to use Windows 7, the actual implementation does have some flaws.

First of all it seems that as a user you are completely dependent on the website to implement this feature. I have yet to test this feature, but it looks like the website is solely in charge of supplying the configuration for this.

Secondly it is the way a site has to provide this configuration: using meta directives. Seriously, for a simple jumplist this is what we'd have to put in the head-section of every single page on our site:

HTML:
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<meta name="application-name" content="Tweakers.net">
<meta name="msapplication-tooltip" content="Start Tweakers.net in Site Mode">
<meta name="msapplication-starturl" content="http://tweakers.net/">
<meta name="msapplication-window" content="width=1280;height=1024">
<meta name="msapplication-navbutton-color" content="#CB103A">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=Index;action-uri=http://tweakers.net/;icon-uri=http://tweakimg.net/g/msico/index.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=Pricewatch;action-uri=http://tweakers.net/pricewatch/;icon-uri=http://tweakimg.net/g/msico/pw.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=V&amp;A;action-uri=http://tweakers.net/aanbod/;icon-uri=http://tweakimg.net/g/msico/va.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=Meuktracker;action-uri=http://tweakers.net/meuktracker/;icon-uri=http://tweakimg.net/g/msico/meuk.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-task" content="name=Gathering of Tweakers;action-uri=http://gathering.tweakers.net/;icon-uri=http://tweakimg.net/g/msico/got.ico">


That's more than 1,000 bytes to add to every single page for something that is not likely to change very often and (for now - although I don't see any other browser vendor adding support for this very soon, let alone in this manner) for just one browser. Complete madness if you ask me 8)7

When Microsoft points out that using meta elements is according the specification for the use of this element I think they are rather stretching the intent of the specification. In my opinion meta directives are mainly meant for page specific metadata instead of site specific metadata.

HTML5 defines metadata content as follows:
Metadata content is content that sets up the presentation or behaviour of the rest of the content, or that sets up the relationship of the document with other documents, or that conveys other "out of band" information.
For the meta-element itself it says:
The meta element represents various kinds of metadata that cannot be expressed using the title, base, link, style, and script elements.
So could this data not be expressed using for instance the link element? Sure it can:

HTML:
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<link rel="msapplication" href="http://tweakers.net/msapplication.xml">


That's only 71 bytes and an external resource that only needs to be downloaded on demand.

It is really beyond me why Microsoft has chosen to take this approach; I hope they will reconsider this before launching the final version of IE9.

Volgende: Do you have javascript disabled? 10-'10 Do you have javascript disabled?
Volgende: Speaking at the HTML5 Game Jam 09-'10 Speaking at the HTML5 Game Jam

Comments


By Tweakers user RobIII, Wednesday 22 September 2010 00:58

As additional information: Kroc Camen blogged about it too and caused some stirrup. His page also has some interesting considerations for alternatives but I don't agree with his <menu> proposition. My idea was exactly the same as yours: use the link element. Also, the semicolon separated values are sooo 1993 :P

Additional interesting links can also be found at (*shivers*) this site.

I do have to add that I've been experimenting with this feature, just for fun, but it does work quite nicely and I do think it has some added value to users. Unfortunately most of the users on the site that would benefit most of this feature are not the kind of users to "pin sites" anyways (not tech savvy enough). Maybe this will become more mainstream in a few years.

Another thing to note is that this feature only supports .ico file (as far as my experimentation showed anyways) which creates a whole other problem in itself: the .ico format is a proprietary format (AFAIK, but luckily a widely known filestructure) and it also gives us webdevelopers the extra burden to create .ico files where we have a gazillion .png/.gif alternatives at hand already. On the other hand the choice of the .ico format can be defended; the file has to support multiple formats for best integration with the desktop.

[Comment edited on Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:15]


By Tweakers user crisp, Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:14

Yeah, I read Kroc Carmen's blog as well, but his idea of using <menu> is silly too :P

As for the .ico format; yes it's a pain, but it's defendable in the light that this concerns an 'msapplication' so it should suit MS operating systems...

[Comment edited on Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:18]


By Tweakers user Chip., Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:16

Maybe they didn't come up with your idea ;-)?

By Tweakers user RobIII, Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:18

crisp wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 01:14:
Yeah, I read Kroc Carmen's blog as well, but his idea of using <menu> is silly too :P
From what I understood, Rey Bango (supposedly a Microsoft employee) has kicked some internal ass people in response to Camen's blog to look into this for a better solution:
Not sure why the IE team took the meta tag route. Let’s see if anything changes going forward.
crisp wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 01:14:
As for the .ico format; yes it's a pain, but it's defendable in the light that this concerns an 'msapplication' so it should suit MS operating systems...
If it weren't for the multi-size support I would've disagreed with their choice for the .ico format and just expected/demanded .png/.gif (and hell, .jpg) support as well. But that would also require a broader browser and platform support and, unfortunately, that's not gonna happen with MS specific meta-tags anyways...

[Comment edited on Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:57]


By Tweakers user crisp, Wednesday 22 September 2010 01:20

RobIII wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 01:18:
[...]

From what I understood, Rey Bango (supposedly a Microsoft employee) has kicked some internal ass people in response to Camen's blog to look into this for a better solution:

[...]
Good, MS deserves all the kicks to the b*tt they can get on this >:)

By Tweakers user edwinjm, Wednesday 22 September 2010 08:06

As for the xml format: you can use RSS for this kind of lists. And use enclosures for the icons. Hopefully they change this before the final release.

By Tweakers user YopY, Wednesday 22 September 2010 09:32

Would it be possible to dynamically add this information using JS only downloaded if you run IE 9?

By Tweakers user RobIII, Wednesday 22 September 2010 10:18

YopY wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 09:32:
Would it be possible to dynamically add this information using JS only downloaded if you run IE 9?
There are some Javascript methods available, but I don't know how complete these are as so far I've only toyed with the meta tags.

[Comment edited on Wednesday 22 September 2010 10:22]


By Tweakers user crisp, Wednesday 22 September 2010 10:40

YopY wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 09:32:
Would it be possible to dynamically add this information using JS only downloaded if you run IE 9?
I don't think javascript would be the right tool for this...

By Tweakers user kipusoep, Wednesday 22 September 2010 13:14

crisp wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 10:40:
[...]

I don't think javascript would be the right tool for this...
Not really no, I'd rather use C# code to show/hide these tags, but I like the idea of one single meta tag linking to an external XML file, like crisp suggests...

By Tweakers user Rhapsody, Wednesday 22 September 2010 16:29

kipusoep wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 13:14:
[...]

Not really no, I'd rather use C# code to show/hide these tags, but I like the idea of one single meta tag linking to an external XML file, like crisp suggests...
How would you like to use C# for this? It's a webpage-feature.

I'd also choose for the single meta tag option as well, but I have to admit that it's a nice feature.

By Tweakers user Arfman, Thursday 23 September 2010 14:40

Very funny to see hardware.info jumped right on the bandwagon and implemented this feature on their site, while T.net actually looks into the code, sees it's rubbish and blogs about it critically.

By Tweakers user 90710, Thursday 23 September 2010 20:56

Rember, IE9 is still a beta ;)

By Tweakers user crisp, Thursday 23 September 2010 23:11

That makes it even more important to scrutenize features like this; hopefully they can still change it...

By Great Dane, Saturday 9 October 2010 11:32

That slug is very poetic. I agree, it's just too much cruft for my Little Dan head. :9

By Tweakers user roy-t, Wednesday 20 October 2010 12:44

RobIII wrote on Wednesday 22 September 2010 @ 00:58:
Additional interesting links can also be found at (*shivers*) this site.
Wow, I dont think they've actually understood this, or the meta tag at all on webwereld.nl. What a rubbish site. No wonder you've added shivers :/.

By Tweakers user VVVJeroen, Tuesday 2 November 2010 10:43

Ik weet niet of je automatisch een berichtje krijgt bij een reactie op een berichtje van jou, maar dit leek me de beste plaats om het te vragen dus ik hoop dat je dit nog krijgt:
Jullie zijn nu bezig geweest met de IE9 en T.net en het viel me op (van de screenshots, zelf niet geprobeerd) dat T.net ook zo'n nieuwe fancy pinned feature heeft.
Mag ik vragen hoe jullie dat hebben opgelost? Ik zie het zelf zo 1,2,3 niet in de source voorbijkomen (als ik die open in IE8/FF3.6).

By Tweakers user crisp, Tuesday 2 November 2010 10:49

VVVJeroen wrote on Tuesday 02 November 2010 @ 10:43:
Ik weet niet of je automatisch een berichtje krijgt bij een reactie op een berichtje van jou, maar dit leek me de beste plaats om het te vragen dus ik hoop dat je dit nog krijgt:
Jullie zijn nu bezig geweest met de IE9 en T.net en het viel me op (van de screenshots, zelf niet geprobeerd) dat T.net ook zo'n nieuwe fancy pinned feature heeft.
Mag ik vragen hoe jullie dat hebben opgelost? Ik zie het zelf zo 1,2,3 niet in de source voorbijkomen (als ik die open in IE8/FF3.6).
Gewoon serverside matchen op user-agent :P (wij gebruiken feitelijk WURFL om browsers en devices te herkennen, maar het komt ongeveer op hetzelfde neer).

Comments are closed