Avoid a Character Set in the Meta Tag

What is a Meta Tag?

A meta tag, also commonly referred to as a meta element, is a tag used in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) or XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) that provides information (metadata) to search engines about a web page. Basic elements of a meta tag most commonly include a title and description. These meta tag elements are primarily used for SEO purposes and helping users to quickly read and scan through SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), but they are used in emails and social media.

What is a Character Set?

A character set, sometimes referred to as charset, is a system that tells a browser how to display characters on a page correctly. These characters sets are defined in numbers, not letters, as computers are better at understanding numbers, and interpret specific sets of numbers into letters and symbols, or characters for different languages. Without these, browsers would end up displaying a bunch of gibberish on the page. Examples of common characters sets include ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and UTF-8 (Unicode Transformation Format – 8-bit)

Why Developers Should Avoid a Character Set in the Meta Tag

Now that we have discussed meta tags and character sets, let us touch on why it is important to avoid them in the meta tag. It comes down to reducing page load time. If the character set is included in the meta, there is a risk of information duplication, causing longer than normal load times. In fact, in Internet Explorer 8, if the character set is included in the meta tag, it causes a known issue by completely disabling the lookahead function, which is used to make sure downloading elements goes smoothly and to keep resources in the download queue, helping to avoid network idle time. So, to avoid this altogether, the character set should be moved to the header or configuration file, depending on the web server and server language you are utilizing.



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