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Redirects, HTTP message headers, Alternative to meta elements

April 10th, 2007 · No Comments


Meta refresh elements can be used to instruct a web browser to automatically refresh a web page after a given time interval. It is also possible to specify an alternative URL and use this technique in order to redirect the user to a different location. Using a meta refresh in this way and solely by itself rarely achieves the desired result. For Internet Explorer’s security settings, under the miscellaneous category, meta refresh can be turned off by the user, thereby disabling its redirect ability entirely.

Many web design tutorials also point out that client side redirecting tends to interfere with the normal functioning of a web browser’s “back” button. After being redirected, clicking the back button will cause the user to go back to the redirect page, which redirects them again. Some modern browsers seem to overcome this problem however, including Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

It should be noted that auto-redirects via markup (versus server side redirects) are not in compliance with the W3C’s – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 (guideline 7.5).
HTTP message headers

Meta elements of the form <meta http-equiv=”foo” content=”bar”> can be used as alternatives to http headers. For example, <meta http-equiv=”expires” content=”Wed, 21 Jun 2006 14:25:27 GMT”> would tell the browser that the page “expires” on June 21 2006 14:25:27 GMT and that it may safely cache the page until then.
Alternative to meta elements

An alternative to meta elements for enhanced subject access within a web site is the use of a back-of-book-style index for the web site. See examples at the web sites of the Australian Society of Indexers and the American Society of Indexers.

In 1994, ALIWEB, which was likely the first web search engine, also used an index file to provide the type of information commonly found in meta keywords attributes.

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