HTML defines a ping attribute on anchor elements (links)
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A PR on the MDN compatibility data repository caught my eye today. The pull request added support information for the
ping attribute in Safari. I've never seen this attribute – let's have a look!
The anchor element's
ping attribute accepts a space-separated list of URLs. When an anchor defines ping URLs and someone clicks it, the browser sends a
POST request to these specified URLs. You can use it, if you want to track and analyse how users interact with your site.
<a href="https://www.stefanjudis.com/popular-posts/" ping="https://www.stefanjudis.com/tracking/"> Read popular posts </a>
To see it in action open your developer tools and click the link below.👇
And indeed, when you open the network panel in the developer tools (enable "preserve log" to see the request after the browser navigated to a new URL), you see a request flying to the defined URL after clicking the "ping link".
The POST request's payload is the single word
ping-to request header holds the link's destination and additional information such as
user-agent. It's fascinating that the
To summarize, the
ping attribute offers a leightweight way to implement "link click tracking". Does this mean that you can use it today?
The browser support of the
When you look at the attribute's browser compatibility table on MDN, you see that browser support is not so bad.
Chromium browsers (Chrome, Edge, etc.) support it. Firefox's support is behind a browser feature flag (
browser) and Safari as all green.
I'm a big fan of native HTML solutions. The question is why no one uses the
ping attribute (or do you know a site that uses it?)?
I can only speculate, but one reason could be that user analytics are mainly driven by 3rd party providers such as Google Analytics.
If you base your tracking on the
ping attribute, you have to adjust all the links on your site. This process includes more maintenance and development work. That's a strong argument against using the
Nevertheless, it's good to know that it exists. If you use
ping, I'd love to learn more about what you do with it!