Understanding Microsummaries

    October 31, 2006

One of the new features of Firefox 2.0 is support for Microsummaries. These are simply another kind of live bookmark, and in that sense are similar in context to RSS live bookmarks, but are simpler to implement and contain less information.

A webmaster wishing to offer a microsummary simply creates a file containing the information that will be displayed. The file can be just simple text or a more complex XML file that will create the text.

For the microsummaries I created here, I used simple text files that are updated by internal scripts. There’s not much to these files, and in fact they can’t be very large because it is their contents that is used as the title of the bookmark in Firefox. When the content of the file changes (and after Firefox updates its cache) the bookmark title will reflect the new data (hence these are also called “Live Titles”).

For Firefox to be aware of the microsummary data, it has to be added to page header tags. For example, if you “View Source” on this page, you’ll see:

<link rel="microsummary" href="/latest" />
<link rel="microsummary" href="/latestcomment" />

The two files referenced by the hrefs contain simple text:

$ cat latest
Latest Post: Understanding Microformats
$ cat latestcomment
Latest Comment: Inexpensive GPS units

When a user bookmarks a page here (Bookmark, not Subscribe) with Firefox 2.0, the Name space has drop-down arrows which, if clicked, will display the available microsummaries.

The created bookmark looks no different than any other bookmark and works no differently except that as the files “latest” and “latestcomment” are updated, the title displayed to the Firefox user wll change to match.

Note that it does take time: I’m not clear on what controls the frequency a which Firefox checks for changes; it seems to be about half an hour or less.

As you have seen, you can offer multiple microsummaries, and they could even be unique to the page.

For example, I could create a comment microsummary that would display the latest comment information (date, author, perhaps some text) for the specific page being bookmarked. You could include page counter data, update dates or anything else that changes.

The purpose of all this is of course to give the user updated information about the page so that they can decide whether to visit again.

*Originally published at APLawrence.com

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com