The Ultimate Guide to Bookmarklets
What are Bookmarklets?
History of Bookmarklets
How Do Bookmarklets Work?
Bookmarklets vs. Extensions/Plugins
Bookmarklets and browser extensions both enrich a user’s browsing experience, but they diverge significantly in their mechanics, capabilities, and applications.
Extensions: These are often persistent-fledged applications that amplify a browser’s capabilities. The main reasons to use them are:
- Power and Reach: Extensions can interact intimately with the browser’s architecture, granting them broader functionalities beyond just web page manipulation; typically, modern extensions are acting as full-fledged applications with access to a set of APIs that are not usable by bookmarklets
- Persistence: Extensions can operate precisely when and where you want them to automatically; this makes them perfect for more permanent changes to a website.
- Extension Library: Extensions can be sourced from a reputable store tailored for your browser, ensuring you always have the latest version and facilitating effortless sharing.
- Lightweight Design: Bookmarklets operate without needing installation; you add the bookmarklet to your bookmarks and click it on the page where you want it to run.
- Ephemeral: Bookmarklets require manual activation, and their effects cease upon refreshing the page. Depending on one’s objectives, this can be seen as a drawback or a benefit.
The decline of Bookmarklets:
In the early days of the internet, bookmarklets were a big deal for many users. They were handy tools that made browsing easier and fun for those who knew how to use them. However, nowadays, many newer internet users haven’t even heard of them. Bookmarklets are becoming less and less common, and many people are moving on to other tools that fit today’s web trends better.
Limited Support on Mobile browsers
In the age of smartphones, mobile browsing is not just a convenience but a daily norm. However, in this shift, bookmarklets were left behind. Popular mobile browsers either offer minimal support or neglect bookmarklets entirely. An increasing number of global users access the web primarily through their phones, so a substantial fraction of web users are using platforms where bookmarklets are often non-functional.
Content Security Policies (CSP)
With security concerns paramount for developers and end-users, Content Security Policies (CSP) have emerged as a crucial component in safeguarding web content against potential threats. While the intention behind CSPs is a critical tool in the modern web - protecting against cross-site scripting attacks and other malicious intents - it has had an unintentional fallout. CSPs often restrict the execution of inline scripts, which has handicapped the functionality of bookmarklets. Since bookmarklets rely on executing scripts in the current page’s context, they frequently run afoul of these security measures. This unintended consequence has further pushed bookmarklets to the periphery, overshadowed by the overarching need for web security.
The utility of bookmarklets cannot be denied. However, the combination of changing user behaviours, evolving browser design trends, the proliferation of mobile browsing, and increasingly rigorous security measures, such as Content Security Policies, indicates that the popularity of bookmarklets is on the wane. They might still have niche applications, especially in environments where security policies accommodate them or among web enthusiasts and developers who value their straightforward nature.