What a TrustedForm Snapshot is (and isn’t)

To understand and benefit and power of the TrustedForm snapshot and how it differs from a "screenshot" it's a good idea to start with a brief review of web basics.


What is a web browser?

A web browser, at a high level, is an engine that turns code into text and pictures displayed on your computer screen. That code is contained in a file called a web page that is downloaded to your computer from a remote computer called a server. The URL that you type into your browser is like a set of directions that tells your browser where on the internet to find a particular server and a particular page that’s stored on that server.


What is a web page?

A web page is a group of one or more related files of computer code that taken together provide your browser with all of the instructions and images that may become be visible to you as you interact with it. This process of making page elements visible is called “rendering”. Not all of a web page may be visible immediately when it's loaded. Modern web pages are frequently interactive – they contain different elements that are made visible or hidden from view, or change color, size, and position depending on the actions you take (clicking, dragging, etc). The page code instructs your browser what to do when those actions occur.


What is a screenshot?

Screenshots (also known as screen clips) are essentially photograph-like images of some portion of a computer display screen taken at a particular moment in time. They don't provide any verifiable information about how what’s visible on the screen was created, where it came from, or what the screen looked like before or after the moment when the screen shot was taken.


What is a TrustedForm Snapshot?

A TrustedForm Snapshot is a file containing a copy of the actual page code that was loaded into the user's browser. It is not a screenshot, a mere image of the screen. TrustedForm Snapshots contain the code for all of the hidden and visible elements in a page, plus all of the instructions for how the page could interact with a user.

The TrustedForm Snapshot image that you see when viewing a TrustedForm certificate is an approximation of how the page looked to the user at the moment when the Certificate and Snapshot were captured, as rendered from the Snapshot code itself by your browser. But there is much more information in the actual Snapshot file than what you see on your screen. By reading the code contained in the Snapshot file, you can determine how any page element would look when presented to the user. That means that you can determine what specific text and images they were shown, what data fields, radio buttons, and checkboxes they were presented with, and whether those fields were pre-populated, pre-selected, or pre-checked. Information entered into fields or selected by the user is normally kept in a separate area of the user computer's memory and will not be part of the snapshot unless the page code caused the browser to write that data back into the page code before the Snapshot was taken.

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