Elegant Content Clipping

One of the most difficult things about protecting your content on the Web is finding ways to encourage legitimate sharing of content without encouraging less desired use. We almost all want people to Tweet, link to and quote our content but we don’t want to encourage spammers and we always want to make sure that proper attribution is applied.

There have been a slew of services that have worked to make exactly that possible. Ranging from licensing solutions such as Creative Commons to technology-oriented ones such as Emebed Article and Tynt Insight (formerly known as Tracer).

However, there is another service,, which hopes to make a dent in the field. is both a bookmarklet and a button/JavaScript embedded into websites that make embedding content (or “clipping” content) extremely easy and elegant.

The idea is to make it simple and attractive to correctly cite content from various sites, including both pulling quotes and snapping images. This raises the simple question “How well does it work?” The answer, overall, seems to be that it does the job very well.

The Bookmarklet

The most common way one would likely use is via a bookmarklet installed in the browser. The bookmarklet can be used one of two ways.

First, if you select text on the screen and then click the bookmarklet, you are given the option to embed just that text. The quote can either be shared directly via a link on’s server or it can be easily embedded into a blog post or any page with HTML. Here is an example taken from this page.

In April, @BadAstronomer, Phil Plait, moderated a panel

All in all, the embed has three elements, the first is the quote itself, which is framed with large quotemarks and formatted to stand out, the second is a direct link to the source page (albeit masked by a short url provided by and finally a link to share the quote via Twitter, Facebook and other services.

The other method for using the bookmarklet is to simply click the link without selecting text and will instead direct you to a page that will allow you to embed a formatted screenshot of the page via a screen like this:

Basically, the tool lets you select the relevant part of the page by moving the slider up and down the left-hand column and resize the image you want to make using the box in the center. From there you’re given an embed code for your site and a direct URL for the clip.

Here is what a sample image embed looks like, once again using the site above.

As you can see, it is a fairly powerful clipping bookmarklet and, if you register for an account, you’ll get the added feature of having your clips stored and remembered in your profile. This can make it somewhat useful as a research and bookmarking tool though, admittedly, Diigo is probably a better choice for that function.

But as nice as the bookmarklet is, it is only half of the equation. also offers an easy way to embed the service into your site, making it available for everyone. for Webmasters

If you register for an account, you can also add your Web sites to the service and that will let you embed’s functionality into your site for all to use, whether or not the user has the bookmarklet installed.

The button works much the same as the bookmarklet, having the same functions on click, but the JavaScript that powers it adds a new feature, copy detection.

When a user selects and copies text on your site, they are greeted with a small popup similar to the one above.

Though the content is copied as is to the clipboard, the user is prompted to either format the content for embedding or take a screen capture if they want. Compare this to Tynt which, when it adds attribution to copied text, does so stealthily and without warning to the user.

This turns the attribution protection into more of a value-add for the person doing the copying as the formatted version is more attractive than plain text.

One feature I could not get to work in my testing is that the system is also supposed to warn visitors when they are attempting to copy too much text. If a user copies more than 100 words, they are supposed to get a fair use warning with a link to the Wikipedia article on the subject (though I would recommend this link instead). Likewise, if they copy a very small amount, they’re given a chance to search for the term.

To those who were uneasy about the way Tynt stealthily added the attribution line to content protected by it, will likely seem like a good compromise, pasting the content to the clipboard as is but offering the user the chance to have it preformatted for inclusion.

Drawbacks and Limitations

To be clear, is not a perfect solution and it does lack features that other services offer. For example, the service can not share images in the way that Embed Anything can nor does it offer the robust tracking of Tynt (though it does monitor “trackbacks” that pass through the service).

Also, during my use of the service I ran into a few bugs. For one, I received none of the emails I should have gotten from and instead received warnings the messages could not be sent. This made password recovery impossible after I lost my temporary password for my first account.

Likewise, some of the links to various clip did not work well for me, taking me instead to my clips when I was logged in.

However, for the most part, is a solid and effective service. It may not have all the features one could want but likely has the features that one needs and strikes a good balance between forcing attribution down a user’s throat and simply hoping for the best.

In short, it is not an ideal solution but for many interested in this type of protection it may be the best available.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot of features I’d like to see out of including more robust stats, direct links to source material (no short url when not needed) and an invisible button (meaning it is only activated on the copying of text) but the service is still very powerful and works very well.

Though I don’t think it’s going to sway large media companies who use Tynt at this time, largely due to the small nature of the company and the lack of invisible tracking, it shows a great deal of potential and may be perfect for small-to-midsize bloggers and webmasters who want to do a little bit more to encourage good copying of their text.

So if you are interested in this kind of functionality, give a look, you may find it to be perfect for you.

If you are curious to see how it works, I’ve enabled it on this article so feel free to play around with it for a bit.

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