So web browsers are bad, right?

And web browsers being bad is making the internet bad, right?

Or maybe the internet being bad is making web browser bad.

Doesn't matter.

The upshot is that we should stop using bad web browsers recreationally, and stop using services that can only be accessed from bad web browsers.

And when that isn't possible, build alternatives that work from not bad browsers.

That's why I'm so happy that Brutaldon exists.

So, what are the core features a good web browser should have?

What shouldn't it have?

If you were redesigning the web, today, knowing what you know about popups, cookies, malicious javascript, etc. What would you design?

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@ajroach42 I guess the question is, how would you *split up* the web, so that applications that really do need the abused functionality went off into their own space (perhaps with its own protocol), while the pieces we like would stay in their own space in which annoyances are relatively difficult to implement.

@freakazoid Right. I'm not suggesting that we try to replace the web entirely. It is very useful, as much as it is a giant problem.

I'm wondering aloud what the core functionality of a modern document delivery platform should look like.

A thing that does what the web was supposed to do, rather than what the web does.


@ajroach42 @freakazoid
I've made the argument before that what HTTP does well gopher does better. For delivery, I'd probably opt for gopher.

With regard to formatting -- well, a subset of html might do, but maybe markdown would be better. Give the user complete control over fonts, sizes, and colors. Eliminate scripting entirely.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid
(The reason I say gopher for document delivery instead of IPFS is simply that gopher has been around longer and is simpler.

IPFS makes the guarantees web tech depends upon conceptually but cannot enforce & has never attempted to implement. I'd like actual permanent addressing, sure, but it's not necessary for a web replacement.)

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid
Can we throw a gopher frontend on something torrent-like for distributed retrieval, then add hella cross-indexing to replace citeseer?

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid I think gopher isn't 100% there (you'd really need a bit more metadata, better non-ascii support, etc), but it's def a good starting point

@enkiv2 Markdown is what I've been considering.

Server side code I'm okay with, but no client side.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 fuck, I'm so glad someone else is doing this bc some variation of this idea has been threatening to eat me alive for about a year now

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 you should talk to @garbados as well, she definitely has some relevant ideas about this space

@aeonofdiscord @ajroach42 @enkiv2 I HAVE MANY THOUGHTS i hope some of them are welcome

the browser is an application environment and it doesn't have to be a bad one. when we visit URLs that serve JS we are downloading software; it should be permissioned and constrained, but there's nothing fundamentally wrong with downloading software or executing it on your machine. major browsers over-privilege JS apps in order to favor surveillance and ads.


@garbados @enkiv2 @aeonofdiscord Your thoughts are always welcome. I have enjoyed our discussions on this front in the past.

@aeonofdiscord @enkiv2 @garbados I am of the opinion that we have reached the point where the browser as an application platform needs to exist separately from the browser as a document distribution and consumption platform.

@garbados @enkiv2 @aeonofdiscord
I am still trying to find the right words to explain my proposed solution, but basically:

- The web that exists should stay, and we should work to improve it. I am not trying to replace it, but augment it.
- A subset of the web that exists + other stuff that exists outside the web should be made available through a protocol/in a format that resists the problems with the web that exists, while also limiting it's functionality.

@ajroach42 @aeonofdiscord @enkiv2 @garbados so, bringing back BBS's, but putting them on a secure protocol that isnt just straight up telnet?

@chuck @garbados @enkiv2 @aeonofdiscord BBS + FidoNet style federation + SSH + a markdown browser might just do it.

@ajroach42 @aeonofdiscord @enkiv2 @garbados TBH the whole scuttlebutt thing appeals to me on this level. If you're just syncing json there's about a million ways to present that data that are valid options.

@chuck @garbados @enkiv2 @aeonofdiscord Agreed.

SSB has some drawbacks that worry me, but I'm in favor of the general ideas.

@ajroach42 @aeonofdiscord @enkiv2 @chuck yes, SSB and its ilk are really fascinating but are still dealing with critical standards and implementation issues (no deletes, etc). beaker and the dat ecosystem are muddling through tooling hell (hashbase, etc). all the pieces of a better web are coming together, and they improve with time

@aeonofdiscord @enkiv2 @garbados

Not only do I not want to load up a javascript application in order to read a news article, I don't want that to even be an option.

This brings up the interesting possibility of a web browser that is incapable of networking.

Download 'sites' with a package manager to run in the browser, which cannot access the network at all.

@garbados @aeonofdiscord

@enkiv2 @aeonofdiscord @garbados

FEtch the content however you'd like, view it with a rendering engine that's not allowed to connect to the network?

That works as longa s there's nothing async happening (and, in general, there should rarely be anything async happening, IMO.)

That's exactly my line of thinking.

Even things that seem like they need networking don't necessarily. For instance, a social network 'app' could be offline-first (like ssb is) -- a daemon syncs posts periodically, and the 'app' just renders & allows you to drop hints for things the daemon should post next time it syncs.

@garbados @aeonofdiscord

@garbados @aeonofdiscord @ajroach42 @enkiv2 tbh i think a key difference is that web code is loaded last second, and programs etcetera, at least on linux, are explicitly updated by the user.

At least in principle, the latter allows news to spread, if there were something wrong with the version.

@aeonofdiscord @ajroach42 @enkiv2 I think about this way too much. I'd like to experiment with separating content and layout.

This would allow devs to share layouts for common design patterns, or users could modify existing page layouts to increase accessibility. And I would want it so different pieces of page content could be user signed, for federated identity.

I have this dream of a browser with basic flex layouts, svg-inspired styling, and lua for lightweight scripting.

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid I mean, I'd rather something more LaTeX like then markdown like. The problem with that of course being LaTeX is Turing-complete so you'd want a subset of it, rather then just moving from Javascript to TeX as your programming language.

But LaTeX is focused around good text layout by default, and has every tool you'll need for that without style sheets or other garbage.

@Canageek @freakazoid @enkiv2 I don't want anything other than very basic layout to be pre-defined.

The author of a document won't know the configuration of my screen. Plaintext reflows very well.

Give me some very basic rich text. I don't need anything more than that.

Yeah, this is basically why I didn't suggest TeX -- it's not just that it's turing complete, but actually to powerful.

Subset of TeX for equations might make sense.

@freakazoid @Canageek

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid Right, so use Knuth's algorithem's to relayout the text to your screen: These days they are plenty fast (compared to most websites at least, as long as you don't do a lot of weird stuff) But then you could also have stuff like decent hyphenation and justification.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid But a lot of the default assumptions in LaTeX would work well for the web: You float figures to the place they fit, rather then trying to put them EXACTLY where you want most of the time.

It figures out exactly how the text flows, based on the size of the page, etc.

You'd have to modify it to not be turing complete, but from a conceptual perspective it seems a good fit.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid That means it still won't work well with scientific equations, chemical formulas, tables, etc.

@Canageek @enkiv2 @ajroach42 LaTeX is intended to be compiled to some display format anyway, generally via DVI. Is DVI turing-complete?

A subset of HTML + SVG, with all resources required to be in-document, might work.

@freakazoid @ajroach42 @enkiv2 LaTeX typically compiles to PDF these days via pdflatex or lualatex. The TeX macro language itself is Turing complete.

But what LaTeX compiles to was always meant to be generic. These days if you removed some of the bits that made it possible to program in it, and a few of the slower bits, you could easily have it compile to the dimensions of the browser page. either as a single massive page, or with some sorts of breaks in it.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid @Canageek I think layout is a problem, and we need a semantic markup language.

Basic text formatting, fine. Blockquotes, tables, lists, good. Images with captions, but letting the UI choose the dimensions for displaying them, and whether to put them into a gallery.

Instead of header and footer and sidebar, there's just a <navigation> element. Maybe several, to represent levels of a site or document. UI can choose how to display it (header, floating sidebar...)

@varx @ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid LaTeX can be pretty close to semantic already,

"(Germanium crystal: \SIrange{4000}{700}{\per\cm}) using \SI{2}{\per\centi\metre} resolution and 64 scans."

(SI = the unit system)

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid

I should be able to write stuff like this on the web without trying.

@Canageek @enkiv2 @ajroach42 At the other end, there's the criticism (from Alan Kay?) of the fact that we've essentially replicated paper books on computers. So maybe we're taking too narrow of a view and over-simplifying. Perhaps we're limiting ourselves too much by trying to make annoyances impossible; maybe that's a problem to be solved socially instead of technologically, except perhaps for the elimination of 3rd party content (or at least cookies).

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @Canageek What we've described so far couldn't even express a typical PLATO lesson.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid I just thought of something: Browsers are going to have to help control text width if it isn't specified in the document. Ever tried to read a raw text file on a wide monitor? Once you are over a few inches across its just unworkable.

But I don't want to have to resize my browser constantly.

On the other hand, if there are apps and everything uses the same formatting then one window size would be fine? But if I hit maximize getting it back might be a pain.

Wrap is a solved problem for plaintext. Even word wrap: backtrack to word boundaries unless the token is longer than the line, in which case switch to character wrap.

This mechanism works so long as you don't switch text directions in the middle of a line & don't try to apply restrictions like non-breaking spaces to character wrap.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid 1) I mean, how do you pick how wide a column to show? In HTML either it is as wide as the window (Fine when we used 800x600 monitors, not fine at 1920x1280!) or the document specifies a width.

If the document doesn't specify a width, and we don't want it full window width wide, browsers are going to have to handle that.

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid 2) That algorithm should have been cast into a fire years ago. Knuth wrote a better algorithm in 1978, and its been possible to run it in real time for quite a while (I've heard that you CAN use this in browsers these days, just no one does)

@Canageek @ajroach42 @enkiv2 That makes me want to write a command line Mastodon frontend just so I can pipe everything through par.

@freakazoid @enkiv2 @Canageek what’s par?

And there are a couple, I’ve fiddled with one of them idly when I was trying to figure out if I could make my pocket chip useful. I have notes somewhere.

@Canageek @freakazoid @enkiv2 well that sounds exceptionally useful, and I wish I had known it existed sooner.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid Yeah, but it uses fixed-width spaces, which are non-ideal for reading.

@Canageek @freakazoid @enkiv2 right. Hence user styles.

Have a clearly defined, sane max-width default, and make it user overridable.

Just like we do now, but in the control of the user, not the publisher.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid I was thinking of the actual layout within the window.

Would tabs still be the best approach if you aren't going to be using all the space at the sides? I've thought they should move UI elements to the left and right sides of the screen for a while.

Or would it be better to go back to a multiwindow model so the OS can do nice layout things?

Would it be better to have split windows inside the browser, or open two browser windows, etc?

Multicolumn support sounds like a good idea -- not so much because it makes lines shorter (I don't understand why we would want that) but because it makes supporting transpointing windows or other forms of alignment between documents easier.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @freakazoid Studies have shown it is harder to read long lines. After a certain length your eye gets confused about which line it is on and has to spend extra time double checking it is reading the right thing.

@enkiv2 @freakazoid @Canageek it’s easier to read shorter lines, especially for folks with certain kinds of vision problems.

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Une instance se voulant accueillante pour les personnes queers, féministes et anarchistes ainsi que pour leurs sympathisant·e·s. Nous sommes principalement francophones, mais vous êtes les bienvenu·e·s quelle que soit votre langue.

A welcoming instance for queer, feminist and anarchist people as well as their sympathizers. We are mainly French-speaking people, but you are welcome whatever your language might be.