Via Dion's twitter, this article about a Universal Edit Button (UEB), the discussion has started to make the rounds. The idea is to make editability as discoverable as syndicatability. Whoof, those are some mouthfuls. Ok, you know that orange feed button you see when a page has a feed? Well this will maybe add a green button for those pages that can be edited, like wikis.

What is a little concerning to me is that browser extensions and wikis are already modifying their code to make this discoverable, yet no decision has been firmly made on how it should be represented on websites. This is a recipe for pain and confusion. Personally, I prefer the <link rel="edit"> suggestion (NOTE: That's a wiki so it's subject to change). I hate that rel="alternate" is so overloaded. I also disagree with the idea that a 'wiki' should be a separate MIME type - to me, the MIME type describes the format of the media (HTML, SVG XML, Atom XML), not its use. But who knows, I may get shouted down...

Another interesting thing - once we've standardized on a way of advertising that a web page is editable, it will be an open invitation to every spammer out there to take advantage of it. I'm sure they already know how to recognize the most popular wiki software, but perhaps this will pose a threat to somebody trying to implement their own little wiki. Personally I think the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks, so I say 'into the breach'.

Go join the discussion over at

Anyway, once that's all been decided, then I would expect to see this link present in wikimedia and on other sites throughout the web. I also expect that browsers will adopt it - but it will be interesting to see how they do so. The address bars are already pretty cluttered - Firefox 3 has the favicon, the address, a star, a feed link, a pull-down arrow and now folks want to add a little pencil... Of course not all such images need be present for every site, but I'm just saying that browser makers are pretty sensitive to outsiders trying to impose chrome changes.

§468 · June 20, 2008 · Software, Technology, Web · Tags: , · [Print]

Leave a Comment to “UEB: Putting The U In Web”

  1. Rob says:

    The button’s not a bad idea. I can’t see it increasing wiki contributions from new users that much though – I think most contributions on the web happen because of an blank text box next to a ‘submit’ button. Just like RSS though, if the button lights up then people who already know what it is may use it more.

    I’m with you on the chrome & MIME type ideas. How does one arrive at the idea that ‘wiki’ is a content-type?

  2. Steven says:

    I think the spammer concern is vastly overstated. Spam has never been a problem that actually brought a wiki to its knees; it’s much easier and quicker to undo spam than it is to create it, and that there are additional protections you can enact on any wiki to protect from spammers. Wiki communities have always done a great job of taking care of their space, large and small. Not only that, but spammers are dumb. They think no one notices their edits, and they can hardly figure out how format external links, much less do real damage.

  3. @Steven: I definitely disagree with your statement that “Spam has never been a problem that actually brought a wiki to its knees”. I’ve come across one wiki in my time that had a very small community and their wiki had been overrun by spam forcing them to lock down edits to only registered users. That said, I agree that spam is not a huge threat (and is an existing threat today, so UEB will hardly make matters considerably worse).

  4. Matt Ryall says:

    I’m with you on the rel and type arguments for the link too, and proposed them originally on the suggestions page. Here’s my post on the subject:

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think that websites and browsers must implement and use some generic website editing prorocol like Atom Publishing Protocol.


    «UEB» is very funny for every russian reader of your blog. See

  6. Rory says:

    Spam has been a problem for most major wikis for a while. I don’t think and edit button would make it much worse.