"Referer" header not set on HTTP requests originating from assignment to "window.location" variable on IE6

This one is annoying. Suppose you were to click on the below link:

<a href="http://google.com">Google</a>

In both Firefox and IE6 the "Referer" [sic, TBL we love you!] header is set to the URL of the page on which the clicked link existed, e.g.:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: google.com
Referer: http://ianso.blogspot.com

However this code, which is functionally (but not semantically) equivalent:

<span onclick="window.location='http://google.com'">Google</span>

Omits the "referer" header from the request it generate. (Ignore for the moment that the example is deliberately facetious. In RL, the onclick might call a function that might call a confirm that might change the page location.)

Why does this suck? Because you may want to be able to launch an operation sequence from a view page, and then return to that page to view changed state upon completion of that operation. And you might want to do the same operation from multiple view pages. Which means that you have to keep track of where you came from in order to direct the user back to the same place afterwards. This is an ideal use case for the "referer" header.

However, if you decide to direct the user to a new page that (for example) had it's URL constructed in JavaScript, then this becomes annoying. The workaround to this trivial, stupid bug that I only need because I'm using a nasty hack is as follows:

function goTo(url) {
var a = document.createElement(a);
if(!a.click) { //only IE has this (at the moment);
window.location = url;
a.setAttribute("href", url);
a.style.display = "none";
$("body").appendChild(a); //prototype shortcut

(Normal caveats apply, i.e. this is probably me being ill and sleep-deprived and casting about wild accusations concerning specks in the eyes of MS developers while smashing windows with the redwood stuck in mine, but anyway.)


Anonymous said...

There's one little change needed for this script to work:

var a = document.createElement(a);

var a = document.createElement("a");

Daniel said...

Thank you! I've solved this problem.

Jai said...

another change: