In a web browser, a download can be initiated immediately after user input, or started via Javascript after a set amount of time and/or being redirected to another page.

I want to provide users with comprehensive instructions and rationale for downloading retrieving the file.

How do web browsers notify users that a download has been initialized in these different use case scenarios and with different file-types?

  • 2
    Can you reword this please? Though I understand you want to know about the UX the question is a little disjointed. Also not sure what you mean be "what happens in different web browsers"
    – tim.baker
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 21:37

3 Answers 3


If you are referring to the downloading of files external to the web browser, then the browser interaction is the same regardless if a user interacts with the page directly or it happens via an JS or AJAX call. Typically, you'll have modal prompt asking you where to save the file (unless you've set your browser up to already handle that in an automated way) and then there's typically some sort of indicator of a download in progress.

Specific implementations of the above vary wildly from browser to browser, however.


'Download' button should be more trusted than a download started via Javascript.

This doesn't matter how you are downloading if the user had clicked the "download button" once at least. That means you are initiating download upon request and that request has started download directly or through a java-script.

But if you want to download something upon opening a page then the download will be treated as spam or a potential threat by the user.

What happens in different browsers? I think it doesn't matter which browser you use as it is a human behaviour under discussion. But some browsers, like Firefox have changed their "download basket location" which is different from Chrome and IE. However, this wouldn't affect user behaviour or expectations anyway.


A browser tracks the initator of events. If a user event leads to the download, then the browser will prompt the user about the download or immediately start downloading, depending on the browser.

If you simply redirect to a download URL, then some browsers will warn the user that a script attempted to download a file. Most browsers will immediately block the download.

It is possible that browsers can track user initiated events across pages. That is; if a user click leads to another page, then on that other page, a download is started by JavaScript in the load or ready event.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.