Scripting on the Internet

I recently read the anti-web manifesto, which I found refreshing. If you haven't read it, go do so. If your too lazy to read it, the gist is that we're trying to get the web to do too much (ie. run applications, pixel-perfect layouts) and that quality browsers can't exist, because what we use the web for these days is beyond the scope of what the web was intended to do. The document is also refreshingly snarky, in the long tradition of both hacker writing and the genre of manifestos in general, but don't let that offend.

I've been known to say, "I hate the web," which is an ironic thing to say given my line of work, but I think it's mostly true. To be fair, I don't hate the web, I just hate what it's become: the only way to access what happens on the Internet. It's great for publishing and accessing content, but for applications? Somewhat less great.

The Manifesto centers on the notion that the perfect web-browser is impossible to implement: Browsers have to implement inefficient scripting languages, and multiple implementations of the various web standards (because you have to implements both "how it should be done," and "how the old, broken implementations that everyone wrote pages to, did it," with the end result being that browsers themselves suck. And it's not a case of just writing the perfect browser because, current expectations of the technology is flawed.

The course of action (theses?) are to:

  • Eliminate CSS; use a little basic HTML formatting instead. Let the text stay in its natural format.
  • Only basic font faces ([sans]serif, monospace), relative sizes to be supported.
  • Eliminate scripting.
  • Separate information from empty multimedia content: use Flash for the latter.

I'm not sure that I agree with this solution. I think HTML 5 will take care of the multimedia content, and I think flash should be avoided. I think scripting should be the first causality of the post-web Internet. I don't see CSS as a problem, (the author sees it as a symptom of design orientation in website creation), though I'd concede that it's used improperly most of the time.

Given this, I think four bullet points from tycho regarding "The 'Post-Web' Web" are in order:

  • Eliminate JavaScript and all scripting in web-environments. JavaScript is the table of the 'aughts and 'teens.
  • Develop/concentrate efforts on alternate (ie. non HTTP) protocols to facilitate the movement of dynamic information across the Internet, including well implemented clients.
  • Develop robust/lightweight cross platform frameworks for developing applications on the desktop. Where's GTK-on-Rails?
  • Write a HTTP server that provides navigational meta-data automatically with pages, and a browser with the ability to construct site navigation based on this information. This way the architecture of the site depends on the file layout and a configured file, but is generated locally. Basically gopher, except designed in the casual manner of the 'aughts.

Any takers?

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