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Definition: Web Actions are actions that a user takes from one web page across to another web page.

For background and analysis, read this first:

I'm organizing current thinking on web actions towards the development of conventions, standards and perhaps APIs for implementing web actions.

- Tantek


There are three actors involved with web actions:

  • Publisher - the site that publishes various web action buttons. Examples: media/news sites, blogs etc.
  • Provider - sites that have URLs or other APIs for supporting (providing) web actions to do something on those sites. Examples: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Readability. (often social or content hosting sites)
  • User - the human, they see a web action button on one site, click it expecting some interaction to occur and action to take place on a second site.

Others: There are web action aggregators/delegators/middlemen like AddThis and ShareThis, which provide generic action buttons for publishers to use which the middlemen then route to specific web action providers.


The challenges that any attempt to provide generic web actions, web action buttons, etc. will face:

  1. Why should publishers use it? What is the incentive for the publisher to use a generic web action button on their site instead of a site specific web action such as a Tweet button?
  2. Why should providers support it? What is the incentive for a web action provider to support a generic web action format / API instead of just providing their own proprietary APIs?
  3. Will users use it? Users are familiar with brands that they know, have established a relationship with, and trust or otherwise know what to expect, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. Why would a user trust or want to use a generic web action button such as a generic "share" button?

pieces to standardize

Based on the common flows (to be documented, currently in a written diagram) here are some interactions that could be standardized:

  • discovery of a web action provider. See Open Web Apps discovery. no need to reinvent this. certainly not worthy of a new element <cough><intent></cough>.
  • web action button markup (alternatively, the browser provides a native web action button UI)
  • browser to provider: user did an action with a page
  • provider -> here is a UI for the user to interact with to:
    • authenticate (e.g. with BrowserID, or with site-specific id)
    • provide additional info, e.g. commentary, tags etc., and confirmation
  • provider->browser: whether the action succeeded or not
  • browser->publisher: whether the action succeeded or not

articles and posts

Articles and blog posts about web actions:

good examples

  • Twitter Tweet Actions
    • "All our embed codes are hyperlinks."
    • <a class="twitter-follow-button" href="http://twitter.com/t">

bad examples

Google Plus Buttons

  • G+ +1 button
    • invalid/non-semantic <g:> or <div> markup
    • 1.5 MB memory heap usage per button!

Facebook Like Buttons


see also