Do browsers need a Universal Edit Button?

As websites allow more user generated content do browsers need a way to better inform users that pages are editable?

As websites allow more user-generated content, do browsers need a way to better inform users that pages are editable?

A group of Wiki providers think the solution is adding in a green pencil icon in the URL bar to indicate a Web page can be edited, similar to the RSS icon to represent an RSS feed is available.

Under the banner, a group of more than 25 Wiki providers, blogging platforms such as Wordpress, and message boards currently support a FireFox plug-in which shows the pencil icon in the address bar.

The group say they expect the Universal Editing Button (UEB) to be directly supported in browsers, just as they have done with RSS feeds and the "button catalyses the acceleration of the editable Web".

According to the group:

The Universal Editing Button (UEB) wiki.png will allow a Web surfer to more quickly recognise when a site may be edited. It will be a convenience to Web surfers who are already inclined to contribute, and an invitation to those who have yet to discover the thrill of building a common resource. As this kind of public editing becomes more commonplace, the button may become regarded as a badge of honour. It may serve as an incentive to encourage companies and site developers to add publicly-editable components to their sites, in order to have the UEB wiki.png displayed for their sites.

While it's positive to see open standards come together, one has to wonder whether users need directing that a page can be edited. Shouldn't this be the job of good usability and design on the website itself?

Some of the people behind the Universal Editing Button say this will help bring Web editing to the masses. I'd argue that this already happens – look at the popularity of Facebook where people have easily grasped how to use the simple interface to edit pages, upload photos and videos, poke, stalk and generally be annoying by asking you to install third party applications that involve zombies and vampires. For better or worse, most people understand it.

What many don't understand is wiki nerdery. It's either not interesting or the syntax to contribute is just too confusing. The hierarchical structure of wiki editing of some sites is even more confusing. Of course, this is not all wikis, as some have developed initiative designs to get more common folk involved.

Furthermore, not many laggards will know what the pencil icon will mean in the browser if they don't even understand the basics of the RSS feed icon. While it is antidotal evidence, there are many of my friends who simply don't have a clue what the RSS icon means, nor what RSS even is.

While I generally think it's a good idea to bring this functionality into major browsers, it shouldn't be seen as a saving grace for bad usability practices, poor design, and not understanding why your users would want to contribute to your website.