Why to not _blank

Mark Pilgrim continues on his 30 days to a more accessible weblog, today he explains why the _blank tag is evil.

In all dominant browsers, using the <a target=”_blank”> tag to force a link to open in a new window breaks the Back button. The new window does not retain the browser history of the previous window, so the “Back” button is disabled. This is incredibly confusing, even for me, and I’ve been using the web for 10 years

My personal reason for not using _blank tages on my weblog is that I think it should be up to you – as the reader – when you want a new browser window to open.

Here is a little tip for you if you want to open new windows (I do this all the time myself when I want to look at something and go back to where I was by closing the window I opened):

Hold down the shift key while you click on the link (for Internet Exlorer and Opera – for Mozilla, hold down the control key while clicking the link) , that will make your browser open the link you click in a new window.

11 thoughts on “Why to not _blank”

  1. I forgot to include target=”_blank” on all my links at my site and within a day i had tonnes of email requesting for me to open the links in a new window. Why? because if you dont include it, it takes people away from your site.

    So how is that evil? it has its pro’s and cons, like anything else in life.

  2. i never found new windows confusing. it’s a new window. i wouldn’t expect it to have the same history as the old one. i actually don’t like it when i’m surfing a site and click on a link and the site i’m looking at disappears. of course i know about shift click, but i think if it’s another page on the same site, same window. new site, new window.

  3. Bah. _blank does stink. I keep all of my links normal and just use Mozilla’s excellent tabs for the same effect, but *I* control it.

  4. I just went to hollowcube from your link and it opened in your same window and because of his flash detection routine, I could not get back to your site. Had to pull down my Favorites and go to your blog again to come back here. Well that was my viewer’s point of view.

  5. Hey Brajeshwar, sorry about the flash detection thing. To get to my blog w/out the flash detection, go to http://www.hollowcube.com/talk/

    I have been using _blank for all my links. It’s not too late for me to go through and change them all, but I think that opening in a new window at least assures that if the new page is screwed up or something, the blog is still there. I don’t know. I’ll have to weigh the benefits of both methods…

  6. Hrvoje Djurdjevic

    Hi there!

    Does anyone know why blank page appears in a new

    window (opened via target=_blank) after several consequent (5 to 6) similar actions which did not

    produce such a problem? Is it some browser fault?

  7. how else?

    if you use java script you get a delay, or you crash the browser. it is to say not this way because.. bla bla.. but you are not offering any option..


  8. There are several ways to control which window to open the page in. One way is to give the user an option and store it as a session variable, and then rewrite href tags based on the users choice. (Fairly easy, really).

    I can see several ways to solve it right off the bat.

    The “easyest” way to solve the problem is of course to teach the user to hold down shift while clicking links to open a new browser window with the link.

  9. hi,

    just to say, i didn’t know about the shift and press new window thing, i don’t know if it’ll make me coffee in the morning, but it’s just one more useful to that is good to have under my belt…..

  10. _blank can be used sparingly. Sometimes you want something to open in a new window, such as a picture or some artwork, etc. I make the new window the same dimensions as the piece and therefore smaller than the original browser. Also, to non-designers, like my wife, opening a link in a new window when it leads to a completely different site is congenial and welcome. I truly feel sorry for those with old machines that may be resource challenged. I kept an old Windows 95 laptop around until recently to remind myself of those still browsing at 640 x 480. Makes me shudder!

  11. I’ve visited a (major)website once that opened a new window for every page on their site. An absolutely horrible browsing experience. It was fixed after a few emails to the webmaster. I use “_blank” on my employers’ website when a visitor clicks a link for a pdf file. The reason is because when the user is done with the pdf file, they usually close the window. If it wasn’t a new window then they would no longer be at the original site.

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