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Kristian Dupont
Kristian Dupont

Posted on • Originally published at Medium on

The Sad State of Webcal

I cannot believe the state of affairs the web is in when it comes to calendar data and events.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

There is the iCalendar format which is old and quirky (seriously quirky), but it works and it pretty much serves all necessary purposes. However, there is no standard way for a website to offer such a file to be added to your calendar. Yes, on a laptop you can download it and double-click on it. This will allow your default calendar to pick it up but it’s still not a good user experience. I want to allow my users to click a link and immediately have a dialog that says “do you want to add this to your calendar?”. And this should work with browser based calendars like Google calendar, it should work with desktop apps and most importantly: it should work on phones.

Now, there is the unofficial webcal:// protocol scheme which has some support but that only works for calendars that you want to subscribe to. I don’t want to do that. I want to offer my users to add a single, non-recurring event to their calendar. And I couldn’t be the only one, you can see the sorry solutions that Facebook and Eventbrite offer — on iOS (I can’t speak to Android), adding an event to your calendar is simply disabled.

This is astonishing to me because if there is one thing that drives progress of the web and tech in general (besides from adult content), it’s business needs. And after email, I’d wager that calendar maintenance is about the most common business process. It’s something everybody needs.

I can picture several simple solutions. We all agree on a complementary webevent:// scheme that doesn’t assume subscription. Or, we add a property to the iCalendar format (it could even be a convention) specifying this. And then we fix the remaining gaps in various browsers. It seems trivial to me if we disregard for a second the challenge of getting browser vendors to agree on things and implement them.

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