Copy and paste for the web

Paul Boag

One of the developers at Microsoft has released a proof of concept for something called “live clipboard”.

One of the developers at Microsoft has released a proof of concept for something called “live clipboard”. This system allows end users to pass data back and forth between websites and even between a website and you’re desktop. Struggling to see the potential? Then read on.


Possible scenarios

Imagine the scenario. You find an event you are interested in attending on a website. Wouldn’t it be great if you could copy and paste that event into your online calendar, or even better, straight into outlook on your desktop! This is exactly the type of scenario live clipboard is trying to address. But, that is not the end of what live clipboard can do. You can also pass “live data” between websites. In other words if you update information on one site then every site you have previous copied that data to, would be updated as well. Just imagine, you could update your personal information on your MSN account and it would be automatically updated on Myspace and every other account that supports the system!

The possibilities are endless. Never fill in another online form again, simply paste the information from your clipboard. Subscribe to RSS feeds without having to deal with those horrible XML pages. Automatically copy any new photos on your flickr account into “my pictures” on your desktop. I could go on!

See it in action

If you are still having trouble picturing how this works then check out the five-screencast demos the guys at Microsoft have put together. Alternatively have a look at the demo that allows you to play with the basic functionality yourself.

The downside

Okay, I admit it. When I first looked at this functionality, I got somewhat over excited about the possibilities. However, the concept is not without its flaws.

Firstly, take up will be an issue. Until enough websites implement the technology it offers limited benefits. Sure, you can offer copy and paste facilities within your own site but that isn’t the real power of this application. It might be worth implementing if you could copy and paste directly to your desktop but that is reliant on a small application that sits on your desktop and Microsoft are yet to release that.

Secondly, and more importantly, there are some accessibility issues to consider. Based on what I have seen from the demo page, the technology appears to be reliant on JavaScript. Even the most basic level of accessibility requires a site to work without JavaScript enabled. That means any application of this functionality will have to be an added bonus that degrades nicely if not supported. Your site will need to be usable even when this functionality is not present.


Although this is definitely a technology worth keeping your eyes on, it is not something you should implement on your site anytime soon. As a “proof of concept” goes, it is breathtaking, but until more sites begin to support the functionality and solve the accessibility issues then it is probably not for the mainstream.