The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Why the web went bad

My recent post about "why gopher needs crypto" received a very well-considered response over at The Boston Diaries. The author (do I call you "the conman"?) …

The conman suggests that creating a new protocol is to risk that we "start falling into HTTP territory". This is of course a very real risk, but I also very strongly believe that it is perfectly avoidable if we are sufficiently determined from day one to avoid it. To this end, I hope to think and write (and read, if anybody wants to join in!) more in the future not just about the shortcomings of gopher but very explicitly about what is right and what is wrong about HTTP and HTML. It's vitally important to identify precisely what features of the web stack facilitated the current state of affairs if we want to avoid the same thing happening again.

More on gopher and crypto

In my opinion, the point where HTTP and HTML “went off the rails” into the current trainwreck of the modern web happened when browsers gained the ability to run code within the browser, turning the browser from a content delivery platform and into an application delivery platform (althought that transformation didn't happen overnight). And no, it wasn't the fault of Netscape and their introduction of Javascript that brought about the current apocalypse of bloated webpages and constant surveillance. Nope, the fault lies directly at the feet of Sun Microsystems (whose zombie corpse is following the command of Oracle but I digress) and the introduction of Java in early 1996. Javascript was Netscape's reaction to Java.

But while the blame definitely lies with Sun, that's not to say it wouldn't have happened. If Sun didn't do it, it would have most certainly been Microsoft, or even possibly Netscape (my money would have been on Microsoft though—they had already added support to run VisualBasic in their office suite and adding such to the browser would have been a natural progression for them). I think that whatever protocol was popular at the time, HTTP or Gopher, would have turned from a content delivery platform to an application delivery platform because that's the way the industry was headed (it's just that HTTP won out because of embedded cat pictures but again I digress).

In fact, the very nature of wanting to “improve Gopher” is what drove HTTP into its current incarnation in the first place and one must fight hard against the second system effect.

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