A web action is the interface and user experience of taking a specific discrete action, across the web, from one site to another site or application.
The concept of "web actions" was introduced to both capture the emergence of this new type of web interaction (e.g. the spread of "Blog this, Digg, Read later, Follow, Like, Share, Tweet, +1" buttons across pages), and as a user-centric reframing of the previous developer-centric notion of "web intents".
At IndieWebCamp 2011, both discussions and a UX effort demonstrated that the term "web intents" was too confusing and too abstract to effectively do user centered research and design in the area. The term "web action" is based on the fact that from the user's perspective, they think they are taking an action when they click these buttons. When the term was tried out with others creating designs/UX in the space, it seemed to work much better to convey understanding.
Most recently, web actions were presented and discussed at OSBridge 2012:
There are two use cases that may be worthy of still exploring for webactions:
1. Provide the familiar buttons UI of Twitter, so that notes on your own site feel "at least as useful" as syndicated tweet copies. This is for the scenario where a reader of your tweets clicks a permalink on the tweet copy, navigates back to the original on your own site (perhaps to read more or view better embedded images / video), the reader can still favorite/reply/retweet/tweet etc. your note (all verbs/buttons which will act on the tweet copy of that note).
There's been some demand for this in response to POSSEing out to Twitter:
2. Provide a UI for indieweb users to comment / link-blog your notes/articles on their own site
By designing, developing for these two particular use cases, it may provide us a with a constrained enough design-space that we can come up with simple uses/guidelines for webactions that produce a good user experience on indieweb posts.
The 2012-06-28 OSBridge "Web Actions" presentation proposed the
<action do="post" with="permalink"> <a href=twitter>..</a> <a href=pinterest>...</a> ... </action>
We need a registry of common verbs to use with web actions. This should be built based on research into real world usage and brainstorming on top of that:
Action tag examples in the wild
Examples of real world web sites using the
Drop Social Buttons
The always insightful @IA wrote up a post explaining why we should consider dropping social buttons (perhaps currently the largest / most popular set of web actions)
The social buttons used by a variety of silos often come with tracking cookies, meaning that the social networking services are alerted to the fact that logged-in readers have been reading content even if they do not actually take any actions (sharing, retweeting, +1ing/faveing). Depending on the nature of the content on your site, this may be a breach of your ethical standards and the reasonable standards of privacy. For instance, visits to sexuality, health and political sites may then lead tracking cookie organisations to draw unwanted or undesirable inferences that breach a users privacy.
In 2010, the British developer Mischa Tuffield noted that Facebook and Google tracking cookies were used on the NHS Choices website, which is used by people to look up health conditions. See here.
Wikipedia has rejected the introduction of social share buttons partly on the grounds of privacy (Wikipedia:Perennial proposals).
Drop Delegated Logins
While delegated logins aren't necessarily seen as a web action, they are at least superficially similar, in that they typically consist of a button with a particular social site brand. MailChimp decided to drop theirs, read why:
Real-World Candidates for Web Actions
Add links to/screenshots of existing website UIs which a web actions UI could replace
Web action delegate URLs are URLs which present a configurable UI for performing an action, which can be customized via params in the URL. They're kind of like a callback URL but presenting a UI to help perform an action instead of performing it automatically with no user intervention.
The web action delegate URL pattern is the practice of software allowing a user to set these custom URLs as delegates for certain actions within an application, probably with URL template placeholders which are auto-filled depending on the context of the delegation.
Example: IndieWeb Reply Extension (Github)
Session notes from events where web actions have been discussed: