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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Meta Challenge

A colleague sent me an email today about EasyEULA:
Dan, you should put meta tags on EasyEULA.

Like this:

<meta http-equiv="imagetoolbar" content="false" />
<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="true" />
<meta name="title" content="EasyEULA | Home" />
<meta name="Copyright" content="Copyright (c) 2006 Collective Idea LLC" />
<meta name="description" content="Started in 2006, EasyEULA strives to simplify End User License Agreements for the benefit of end users, software developers, and for general good karma." />
<meta name="author" content="Daniel Morrison, Collective Idea" />
<meta name="Rating" content="General" />

I don't want to pick on anybody, but I don't like meta tags for two reasons
  • It conflicts with my love of minimalism.
  • I don't see why these are useful, let alone necessary.


My question of the day: Is there any benefit to including these elements?

<meta http-equiv="imagetoolbar" content="false" />
The first one drives me nuts. An http-equiv? This means that this should be interpreted as if it was an HTTP header. Doesn't sound like one that made the spec. In practice, this keeps Internet Explorer on Windows from displaying those annoying little boxes (print, save, etc.) over images when you mouse over.

<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="true" />
The second one, I have no clue about. A quick search sheds some light, but is hardly seems worth of an element on every page.

<meta name="title" content="EasyEULA | Home" />
The third seems entirely worthless to me. Any robot should realize that there is already a <title> element. This isn't metadata, it's data. If this meta title is different from the real title, we have a problem.

<meta name="Copyright" content="Copyright (c) 2006 Collective Idea LLC" />
<meta name="description" content="Started in 2006, EasyEULA strives to simplify End User License Agreements for the benefit of end users, software developers, and for general good karma." />
<meta name="author" content="Daniel Morrison, Collective Idea" />

These next three I have the least problem with, as they could clear up ambiguities. However, I feel that they could be better represented by good semantic markup or RDF, which is the modern replacement for <meta>.

<meta name="Rating" content="General" />
This final piece of metadata seems reasonable, though I see no use for it unless your content is of a questionable or variable propriety.

So what is the solution? Are major robots actually looking at meta elements? Is anybody? What about RDF, is Google parsing it? Am I right to avoid meta? Should I replace it with RDF? Should I leave it all out?

Comments requested.

2 Comments:

At 9:45 AM, Blogger pablohart said...

the whole reason i noticed you didn't have meta data was when i tried to bookmark it in http://del.icio.us/ with this snazzy bookmarklet tool that grabs meta data and puts it in the description field on del.icio.us automatically.

as for your arguments, i can see your point, but i will still put them in, especially the stupid IE one and the content description ones.

maybe you can show me how RDF works as a replacement for meta.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

That's very interesting about del.icio.us. That alone may be a reason for Description (though represented via RDF would be "better" and more standardsy)

Alternatively, this could be a good use of a microformat, or similar standard. If I have a id="copyright" in my page, it could use that as the copyright.

 

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