Pinned Sites, first introduced in Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 9, could be described as super-favorites. Windows 8 brought us the ability to pin sites to our Start screen, and this functionality is being enhanced in Windows 8.1.

The line between site and app became blurry when pinned sites were introduced, promoting your favorite sites to top notch citizens on your computer. Just like a full featured program, a pinned site gains a dedicated button, jump list with shortcuts, and notifications when your site is running, such as new mail icon or new facebook post.

Jump Lists from this site, Office Outlook, and pinned Facebook (showing a new alert).
Jump Lists from this site, Office Outlook, and pinned Facebook (showing a new alert).

Windows 8

As I outlined in my Pin Your Stuff All Over Windows post in April, Windows 8 allows sites to be pinned not only to the Taskbar, but also to the Start screen.  Until now, these pinned sites have served as boring shortcuts to the site, lacking any rich functionality of the Taskbar pinned variety.

pinned sites on the Start screen
In this shot, this site and Facebook are pinned sites.

Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1 this changes.  Now sites can take advantage of all tile sizes, ranging in size from super tiny to gigantic.  In addition, they can show live information in presentations that fit the tile size.  The best part is that unlike the Taskbar versions, these tiles will remain up to date even if the site is not running.  Your information is as fresh as a built-in app.

Examples of skeene.net pin: tiles display information in layouts appropriate to the users' selected size (as with all apps, the tiny tile displays only the icon)
Examples of skeene.net pin: tiles display information in layouts appropriate to the users’ selected size (as with all apps, the tiny tile displays only the icon)

Also unlike the Taskbar pinned sites, developers can easily implement these updates without additional coding that was required for updated jump lists.  If you have an RSS feed of updates, you’re already done!  Just add the appropriatetag to your site and your pinned tiles will immediately gain this functionality.  If you haven’t used pinned sites, try pinning my site, Facebook, or Bing to get a feel for how it works.

Website authors wishing to add this functionality to their site can visit the Microsoft Developer Network documentation.  Microsoft has also set up BuildMyPinnedSite.com with an easy 3-set step-by-step wizard that creates your graphics, notifications, and code automatically. At the bottom of the page is also a link to the Windows 7 builder, which can be used to build the Taskbar pinned site functionality, including video player controls and more.

Taskbar-pinned site features from BuildMyPinnedSite.com.
Taskbar-pinned site features from BuildMyPinnedSite.com

This ability to see live information on Start from any site you choose is powerful, and I believe will result in many more users pinning sites all over the place.  Still, the hurdle of education still exists: users may not pin sites until they discover the utility of doing so, so developers will need to highlight this capability as they update their sites.