It seems that Firefox 3 will include an option to treat meta refreshes much the same way as popups - blocking them and alerting the user what the page wants to do. It's another step forwards in letting the user take control.

Of course, Opera users already have this option; using opera:config#UserPrefs|ClientRefresh. Neat, although an alert would be good; as would site-specific settings. Hopefully the feature will be refined in future versions.

Really though, either way is good as it gives the user a little more control over their browser. Automatic refreshes and redirects break accessibility recommendations. They're one of those things which gets written up as "until browsers provide a way to control...".

As these features become more widespread, the importance of fallback options will become even more critical. Just like scripts need a <noscript>, meta refreshes need a link in the document. Many pages don't have them, though; so no accessibility or SEO juice for them!

It serves as a good reminder that we should provide alternatives any time we modify the behaviour of a page. I have had people say in the past that meta refresh was so simple nothing could go wrong. Well, that assumption will bite them on the arse...! :)

We should always assume that somehow, somewhere such features will be disabled. It's not hard to provide an alternative, so it should remain our habit to do so.

how to disable meta-refresh

  • In Opera 9 (Win/Mac): browse to opera:config#UserPrefs|ClientRefresh, then deselect the option and restart Opera.
  • Firefox 2 (Win/Mac): install the Web Developer's Toolbar and click Disable → Disable Meta Redirects.
  • In Internet Explorer 6 and 7: go to Tools → Internet options → Security tab → Custom Level button → Miscellaneous category → set "Allow META REFRESH" to Disable.
  • Safari 2: currently I don't know of a way to disable it in Safari.