Users will have final say on MS smart tags

Microsoft end users will have ultimate control over whether they receive and use smart tags, according to local Jay Templeton, Microsoft New Zealand's Windows marketing manager.

Microsoft end users will have ultimate control over whether they receive and use smart tags, according to local Jay Templeton, Microsoft New Zealand’s Windows marketing manager.

Smart tags are a new innovation in both Windows XP and Office XP. The tags are basically XML-powered links added to a website or Office document to offer information that isn’t contained in the document. A company name might link through to a stock market ticker or perhaps to a company’s annual report and so on.

Concern has been aired that Microsoft will use this tool to push its own point of view onto users and websites that may not want smart tags. Critics say an example could be a negative web review of a Microsoft product having a tag forced onto the site, linking to a positive press release on the matter.

That can’t happen, says Templeton.

“It’s entirely up to the end user to download these tags in the first place. Some of the reviews available haven’t realised this, or that most of the tags will be from third party providers.”

A user with a particular bent for international politics, for example, could download a tag that adds political information every time a country is named on a site.

“That tag wouldn’t be from Microsoft and it would be up to the user to download it.”

Smart tags will be switched off for end users by default. Templeton says the latest build of Windows XP, due for launch on October 25, has a button that allows users to switch the tags on and off at will.

Web developers will be able to download a metatag to switch off smart tags on their site if they wish, but smart tags will be on by default in XP development kits.

“However even if a website developer switches smart tags off it’s the end user who ultimately decides whether to have them activated or not.” Templeton also says fears about security issues with smart tags are also unfounded.

“Smart tags are XML code, not executable.” That means they shouldn’t be used as a way to launch viruses or the like.

Smart tags are already in use in Office XP - users can link from a Word document, for example, to a spreadsheet in Excel or to a PowerPoint presentation. The functionality is being added to Windows XP, says Templeton, following user feedback.

“They told us they want consistent functionality for browsing Office or native web documents.”

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