Smart Tags

Microsoft's Smart Tags were a proposed feature of Windows XP that would allow Microsoft and its partners to insert their own links into any Web page viewed through its Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft's Smart Tags were a proposed feature of Windows XP that would allow Microsoft and its partners to insert their own links into any Web page viewed through its Internet Explorer browser. These links (which appear as purple dashed underlining, to differentiate them from original content links) are similar to traditional hyperlinks, but more complex and interactive: when the cursor hovers over a Smart Tagged word, a drop-down list appears with a selection of links related to the word. A number of companies are developing industry or application-specific Smart Tag libraries - for example, for the insurance industry or for medical applications. A Microsoft partner, Keylogix, has an application called ActiveDocs Smart Tags that allows end users to create their own Smart Tags from within Microsoft Word.

Although Microsoft will not include Smart Tags as part of XP, they have a version of them available for free download, Smart Tags for the Everyday Web. This Smart Tags application is compatible with Internet Explorer 6 and requires 200 KB of free disk space. How Smart Tags work: Someone reading a sports article moves their cursor over a Smart Tag on the name of a particular baseball team. A drop-down list appears with a selection of links - such as current standings, official web site, and related news, for example; when the user clicks a link in the list they are taken to that Web page. A button on the toolbar turns the Smart Tag option on and off.

Although Smart Tag technology has a lot of potential for helping the Web develop its interactive potential, the corporate background has made many Web site developers leery of less benign possibilities. Because the tagged words and associated links are selected by Microsoft, many Web content creators and site owners are very concerned about Smart Tag implementation, which they fear would allow Microsoft to have editorial control of their work. As an example, an anti-Microsoft rant on a Web page might have a lot less impact if links took the reader to pro-Microsoft pages. In response to the outcry against Smart Tags, Microsoft has made them available to Internet Explorer users who want them - but not an integral part of their new operating systems - and created a meta tag that allows developers to disable Internet Explorer-added Smart Tags for their Web pages.

This was first published in September 2005

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