An iFrame, short for inline frame, is an HTML document embedded within another HTML document. Web developers frequently use iFrames to embed videos, audio players, and social media posts in a web page to make it more dynamic and engaging for visitors. Each iFrame tag contains a URL for the source document as well as specifications for the element’s height, width, behavior, and other parameters.
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How does iFrame work?
To use an iFrame, a web developer starts with an opening <iframe> tag in a back-end text editor. Then they add a “src” attribute, which is the URL address for the HTML document to be embedded, along with optional parameters for how the document will be displayed. A closing <iframe> tag signals the end of the iFrame attributes and generates the embedded document on the front end.
An iFrame embeds everything contained in the source URL’s HTML document, so many publishers like YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter offer an embed feature that uses a dedicated source URL for an individual video, song, or tweet. This URL ensures the source assets display correctly. Otherwise, the iFrame would display the entire destination page for that particular piece of content, including the site’s header and navigation. For example, the iFrame for the video embedded below uses a different URL from the video’s main YouTube page:
Risks of using iFrame
Many security experts advise using iFrames sparingly because they have the potential to lead to code injection or clickjack attacks. With these attacks, a hacker manipulates the iFrame with malicious code to redirect a user to a nefarious site. The redirection can then trigger a ransomware or virus download that allows the hacker to steal sensitive data.
From a content perspective, iFrames also pose a risk to user experience. Unless content comes from a dependable source, there’s a chance that content could be deleted or significantly altered down the road. Visitors to the site could lose faith in a site’s credibility if the site’s meaning is lost or changed without the functioning iFrame.