Kzqai Kzqai - 5 months ago 58
HTML Question

What are the recommendations for html <base> tag?

I've never seen

HTML tag actually used anywhere before. Are there pitfalls to its use that means I should avoid it?

The fact that I have never noticed it in use on a modern production site (or any site) makes me leery of it, though it seems like it might have useful applications for simplifying links on my site.


After using the base tag for a few weeks, I did end up finding some major gotchas with using the base tag that make it much less desirable than it first appeared. Essentially, the changes to
under the base tag are very incompatible with their default behavior, and this change from the default behavior could easily make third party libraries outside of your control very unreliable in unexpected ways, since they will logically depend on the default behavior. Often the changes are subtle and lead to not-immediately-obvious problems when dealing with a large codebase. I have since created an answer detailing the issues that I experienced below. So test the link results for yourself before you commit to a widespread deployment of
, is my new advice!

Answer Source

Breakdown of the effects of the base tag:

The base tag appears to have some non-intuitive effects, and I recommend being aware of the outcomes and testing them for yourself before relying on <base>! Since I've discovered them after trying to use the base tag to handle local sites with differing urls and only found out the problematic effects after, to my dismay, I feel compelled to create this summary of these potential pitfalls for others.

I'll use a base tag of: <base href=""> as my example in the cases below, and will pretend that the page that the code is on is


No links or named anchors or blank hrefs will point to the original subdirectory, unless that is made explicit: The base tag makes everything link differently, including same-page anchor links to the base tag's url instead, e.g:

  • <a href='#top-of-page' title='Some title'>A link to the top of the page via a named anchor</a>
    <a href='' title='Some title'>A link to an #named-anchor on the completely different base page</a>

  • <a href='?update=1' title='Some title'>A link to this page</a>
    <a href='' title='Some title'>A link to the base tag's page instead</a>

With some work, you can fix these problems on links that you have control over, by explicitly specifying that these links link to the page that they are on, but when you add third-party libraries to the mix that rely on the standard behavior, it can easily cause a big mess.


IE6 fix that requires conditional comments: Requires conditional comments for ie6 to avoid screwing up the dom hierarchy, i.e. <base href=""><!--[if lte IE 6]></base><![endif]--> as BalusC mentions in his answer above.

So overall, the major problem makes use tricky unless you have full editing control over every link, and as I originally feared, that makes it more trouble than it's worth. Now I have to go off and rewrite all my uses of it! :p

Related links of testing for issues when using "fragments"/hashes:

Edit by Izzy: For all of you running into the same confusion as me concerning the comments:

I've just tested it out myself, with the following results:

  • trailing slash or not, makes no difference to the examples given here (#anchor and ?query would simply be appended to the specified <BASE>).
  • It however makes a difference for relative links: omitting the trailing slash, other.html and dir/other.html would start at the DOCUMENT_ROOT with the given example, /other-subdirectory being (correctly) treated as file and thus omitted.

So for relative links, BASE works fine with the moved page – while anchors and ?queries would need the file name be specified explicitly (with BASE having a trailing slash, or the last element not corresponding to the name of the file it's used in).

Think of it as <BASE> replacing the full URL to the file itself (and not the directory it resides in), and you'll get things right. Assuming the file used in this example was other-subdirectory/test.html (after it moved to the new location), the correct specification should have been:

<base href="">

– et voila, everything works as expected: #anchor, ?query, other.html, very/other.html, /completely/other.html.

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