April 24, 2007

Amazon.com Widgets and hypertext

It looks like Typepad and Amazon are collaborating to help bloggers link to Amazon products. They have three widgets outlined, and one of them - the quick linker widget - uses custom attributes on an HTML anchor tag to make it easier to reference a set of products. The 'old school' would just use a URI, but those are hard to construct, hard to type and the wizards slow people down, blah blah blah. This not-quite-micro-formats approach is more understandable and more forgiving for hand-crafted markup. They define a new 'type' attribute for the anchor with the value "amzn". Then there are several more attributes like 'search' or 'category' or you can create a direct link via an 'asin' attribute. I assume some snippet of javascript would scan the page after it was loaded and construct the URI on the fly and set the href attribute on these anchors.
This is a creative solution to the "how do you construct a URI" problem, but it does leave spiders out in the cold, breaking the hyperlinking which defines the Web.

However, there is a simple approach they could use which would make a fully declarative and locally described document work and continue to allow auto-discover of hyperlinks to work - add a 'meta' tag to the head of the document with the URI template that corresponds to the 'type' attribute. I think the URI template proposal may need to do a bit of work related to optional or conditional patterns, or the URI template could stay static and the type="amzn" could change to be type="amzn-direct-link" or some other more qualified value.

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