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Bunbun's Blog

The Internet of Bloat

Posted on: 2021/12/21 | Author: Lian

Simply put: The internet as we know it today is a massive, overgrown cancerous mass that deviates miles and miles from the actual intentions of what used to be the "World Wide Web". It endangers software freedoms and is anti-accessibility and anti-alternative computing.

You have noticed that this website and this blog is written in strict XHTML 1.0 and does not have any fancy embeds, IFrames and other nasty outgrowths of web development technology. That is in a stark contrast to all the other websites that you will most likely visit in a day: news sites, services, online apps (SaaSS), even things you need for your day to day lives like Coronavirus test checkins.

A browser has practically become an operating system, and websites went from documents to display content, to applications to be run. And that has slowly but surely bloated up internet sites to such a degree that browsing the internet nowadays is littered with trackers, ads, absurd attachments with even more absurd file sizes, security holes, no compatibility with classic browsers, and ever growing "standards" for web development, each worse than the last.

Have you recently tried to find a simple recipe for an apple pie online? It's baffling how much of a step back the modern internet is from what it used to be. Ads, trackers, up to a minute of loading time even on modern connections, not accessible on alternative browsers, life stories and product placements before the recipe, containers for image slideshows with a low framerate, even more ads, autoplaying videos, ad-blocker-blockers, and so on. It's unusable.

(And by the way, if you need a good anti-bloat website for cooking recipes, try this one.)

Why use plain (X)HTML?

I dream of an internet where we return to simple, plain (X)HTML for everything we need. There are many advantages:

The problem with this is that many of today's applications of the internet can not be covered by plain text and simple input methods like forms and buttons. But: why have we arrived at this point? Why have we arrived at the point of a browser practically being an operating system for applications?

The fact that nowadays, a lot of computing, data storage and applications themselves are relegated to be "web apps" is a tragedy. You should be able to run code on your own system, not on someone else's server that you control via a browser interface. The only reason for websites to use more than simple input and plain text is to take control from the user and put it into the hands of the service owner.

The fundamental software freedoms are all distorted with web applications: you can not even know what runs on the server you are accessing for sure. The service can simply shut down and take the application with it. It can roll out features you don't want. Sure as hell you cannot host it yourself in most cases: and modifying it is even worse of a bet.

The internet should be a hypertext of documents and simple, standard interactive elements like input forms and buttons. And for more complicated and specialized computing tasks, there shall be offline, on-metal, applications. No more software-as-a-service.

To combat internet bloat means to take back control over the code that runs not even on your machine, but on your input. Taking control over your data and your workflow. And it means bringing back simple, specialized content websites: personal homepages, niche topic and hobby sites, accessible and readable information presented in a customizable way to you as a document that resides and is run on your computer, in your browser.