The Bullshit Web

Nick Heer breaks down the problems with the Web today:

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.

But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.

He draws a great analogy between widening highways and increasing internet bandwidth:

You know how building wider roads doesn’t improve commute times, as it simply encourages people to drive more? It’s that, but with bytes and bandwidth instead of cars and lanes.

Now, instead of encouraging companies to build more efficient websites, Google swoops in the save the day with AMP:

Launched in February 2016, AMP is a collection of standard HTML elements and AMP-specific elements on a special ostensibly-lightweight page that needs an 80 kilobyte JavaScript file to load correctly. Let me explain: HTML5 allows custom elements like AMP’s , but will render them as elements without any additional direction — provided, in AMP’s case, by its mandatory JavaScript file. This large script is also required by the AMP spec to be hotlinked from cdn.amp-project.org, which is a Google-owned domain. That makes an AMP website dependent on Google to display its basic markup, which is super weird for a platform as open as the web.

How kind of Google to create a copy of an entire website with all the extra bullshit stripped out. As Heer points out, this is not Google being altruistic. It’s all done in service of itself.

Resist the bloat. Trim down your website. Cut the fat. Kill the bullshit.

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internet, Technology

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The Nomadic Web

Alexander Singh (via kottke):

Over the past 25 years, the web appears to have transitioned from a primarily nomadic culture to a mostly agrarian one, mirroring the Neolithic Revolution 10,000 years ago.

The simplicity of HTML-only site building, spaces like Geocities & Angelfire, and cultural artifacts such as web rings coupled with poor search engine tech saw us navigate the web like nomads: from point to point, link to link.

The web has developed & so have the skills necessary to build within it. HTML was easy. CSS took a little more time & JS more again, alienating most and establishing a class hierarchy. Discovery was solved, weakening point-to-point navigation.

The literate Priesthood can still build & interface with the web, but the vast majority of people are relegated to the peasantry. “Fortunately” for them, motivated benefactors have offered a Faustian bargain to make their lives “easier”.

Corporate Feudalism has emerged to create centralized, “safe” spaces for the peasantry to work & play. Attention is farmed and sold in exchange for convenience, protection, mediated self-expression & an indifferent audience. You can do anything if it’s within their borders.

Interesting observations. I haven’t taught at the university level for around 7 years, so I’m not connected with young designers as much as I was.

I’d be interested to find out how many young, internet ‘nomads’ there are today, building their own ‘handmade’ websites (like this one with WordPress, customized CSS and MySQL) or launching readymade versions with Squarespace (like my portfolio site).

What’s Missing Here?

Here is a page from the desktop version of Wikipedia:
bl_montd.jpg
And here is the same page in the mobile version:
bl_montm.jpg
What happened to the coordinates link? In Wikipedia’s view, are phone and tablet users uninterested in maps? I think not.

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internet

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It’s Not About Television Anymore

The news this week that Comcast is set to take over Time Warner Cable dropped like a bomb. The immediate, visceral reaction from most folks on the internet, and from writers actually paid to understand deals like this, is that there is little hope a merger between these two giants would be good for customers. But there are more than just cable customers at stake. The big get for Comcast isn’t the people who are watching television. Rather, it’s the internet.
If this deal is approved by government regulators, the merged Comcast/Time Warner behemoth will have more customers purchasing internet access than any other company in the United States. This becomes even more significant in light of the court ruling last month striking down the FCC’s net neutrality rules. If that ruling stands, and Congress fails to pass legislation restoring net neutrality, then a giant ISP such as Comcast stands to reap a whirlwind of profits, all for essentially doing nothing.
With millions upon millions of customers behind Comcast’s wall, businesses paying to allow faster access to their services online will essentially be paying extortion to Comcast. It will be a tax on American business. That is the game Comcast is playing. They are seeking to position themselves as a gatekeeper between American businesses and American consumers. With every transaction that takes place, they will get their cut. The larger the company becomes, the more impact they will have on the American economy’s ability to function.
If that seems unsavory, that’s because it is. It has the same feel of mob tactics (protection, extortion, hijacking, etc.) only with the imprimatur of government approval.

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internet

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