Smart tags (Microsoft)

Smart tag (Microsoft)

Smart tags are a feature found in later versions of Microsoft Word, and beta versions of the Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 8 web browser by which the application recognizes certain words or types of data and converts it to a hyperlink. Initially Microsoft had intended the technology to be built into its Windows XP operating system but changed its plans due to public criticism.

Smart tags in Microsoft Word

With smart tags enabled, Word attempts to recognize certain types of data in a document (for example, dates or names) and automatically makes such text a smart tag, visually indicated as a purple dotted underline. Clicking on a smart tag brings up a list of possible actions for that data type.

As an example, in Microsoft Word the words "John Smith" would be recognized as a personal name and smart tagged. The list of actions available when clicked might be Open Contact, Schedule a Meeting, Add to Contacts, or Insert Address.

Smart tags in Internet Explorer

Within a web browser, smart tag technology parses its way through a web page, underlines the words it has been pre-programmed to react to, and inserts its own hyperlinks. These take you to wherever the smart tag developer wants to take you, entirely without the knowledge or permission of the web site proprietor (in early tests almost all the links offered were to sites or products of Microsoft or its affiliates.)

Smart tags can also be generated by third parties; for example, a company might contract a technology firm to develop a set of smart tags and actions for their specific products or services, so that product names are automatically recognized and linked to actions such as "check quantity in stock" or "check price."

Criticism

The extension of smart tags into Internet Explorer and into Windows XP raised the hackles of many, since the links could be generated and overlaid onto a web page without the knowledge or desire of the owner of the content of the page, in effect allowing Microsoft (or any other third party) to "edit" any web page to insert its own preferred links. There were also fears that smart tags could be used for user tracking or other data collection purposes that might violate user's privacy. Another concern was that they could be used in negative or harmful ways such as linking a political candidate's name on his own website to negative advertising on other sites.

In response to the criticism, Microsoft removed the technology from its Windows XP operating system and made it a feature that could be turned on or off in IE and in Office XP.

References

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