Someone at Clearleft asked me a question recently about making bookmarklets. I have a bit of experience in that department. As well as making a bookmarklet for adding links to my own site, there’s the Huffduffer bookmarklet that’s been chugging away since 2008.
I told them that there are basically two approaches:
- Have the bookmarklet pop open a new browser window at your service, passing in the URL of the current page. Then do all the heavy lifting on your server.
I favour the first approach. Partly that’s because it makes it easier to update the functionality. As you improve your server-side script, the bookmarklet functionality gets better automatically. But also, if your server-side script doesn’t do its magic, you can always fall back to letting the end user fill in the details.
Here’s an example…
When you click the Huffduffer bookmarklet, it pops open this URL:
page parameter filled in with whatever page you currently have open. Let’s say I’ve got this page currently open in my browser:
If I press the Huffduffer bookmarklet, that will spawn a new window with this URL:
And that’s all it does. Now it’s up to that page on Huffduffer to figure out what to do with the URL it has been given. In this case, it makes a CURL request to figure out what to use as a title, what to use as a description, what audio file to use, etc. If it can’t figure that out, I can always fill in those fields myself by hand.
But remember this only applies to some bookmarklets. If a bookmarklet just spawns a new window—like Huffduffer’s—then there’s no problem. That approach to bookmarklets was dismissed with this justification:
Citation needed. I submit that Huffduffer and Instapaper provide very similar services: “listen later” and “read later”. Both use cases could be described as “non-trivial”. But only one of the bookmarklets works on sites with strict CSPs.
Bookmarklets are not dead. They may, however, be pining for the fjords. Nobody has a figured out a way to get bookmarklets to work on mobile. Now that might well be a death sentence.