Complex, Bloated Web Design Described in 13 Words

"I love how browsing the web now is like gearing up for war."

created May 13, 2019

The so-called "modern" web design means that text-based websites are massively bloated, bogging down last year's brand new CPUs.

The "modern" web browsers are like mini operating systems because so much is shoved down the tiny web pipe.

May 13, 2019 Hacker News thread about whatever.

Top comment thus far out of 25 comments:

I have a Facebook account, this creates limitations when it comes to blocking (e.g. I cannot use a DNS block/piHole).

What I found works for me is to use Multi-Account Containers with Facebook being forced-open in a specific container (that's only for Facebook) and then using Firefox's built in Content Blocking to block trackers in other containers (Content Blocking -> Custom -> In All Windows).

This allows you to use Facebook but makes it significantly harder for them to track you across other sites (via shadow accounts or your actual profile).

I doubt that Facebook cares about that user, since probably 99 percent of Facebook's 2.4 billion users don't care about their personal privacy and security on the web.

Here's the brilliant reply comment to the above HN comment.

I love how browsing the web now is like gearing up for war. Need our anti tank and our anti air of course.

When I use the wonderful "modern" web browsers, I also use the following browser extensions or add-ons: uMatrix, Privacy Badger, and Quick JavaScript Switcher.

Surfing the web with JavaScript disabled obliterates the hostile and insane "modern" web design. If that means some websites are unreadable, that's okay. Those publishers won't miss me not reading their websites, and I won't miss anything by not reading their hostile-designed websites. Win-win.

It's still a huge web. I can find plenty of interesting content to read that is hosted at websites that do not abuse readers with "modern" web design.

"Modern" web design is synonymous with needing some kind of reader mode app.

In that same HN thread, here's a reply to the above brilliant reply comment.

It's kind of terrifying how one sided it is. The only browser that matters for standard setting, the one used by the vast majority of users, is built for and by one of the largest advertising and data collection firm.

Of course, the user is referring to the Chrome web browser and Google. I hope that the user recognized the vicious circle that enabled our current predicament.

Does the smartphone get the blame? Of course not. I blame people who wanted the web to function like native apps. Did Google push for that? Maybe.

Web publishers, web developers, and web browser makers wanted features added to web browsers that allowed developers and publishers to create websites and web apps that functioned like native mobile apps.

Instead of learning Objective C, Swift, or Java to create native apps, the web developers wanted to use their experiences with CSS and JavaScript. That led to an explosion of features added to CSS and JavaScript this decade, which led to an explosion of frameworks that make building complex, bloated websites easier. When CSS needs to be "compiled", that's a sign of things going amok.

Chicken and egg syndrome. I'm unsure which came first. Did web publishers and developers want native app-like functionality added to web browsers, or did the web browser makers add new features to their browsers, which caused developers to use the new tech because it existed?

Sometimes, it seems that the obnoxious "modern" web design is used simply because the advanced web browser features exist. No problems were solved by redesigning websites to be bloated, slower, clunky, less intuitive, and worse of all, harder to read on mobile devices, due to the trend of using a microscopic font size with a grey text color.

It's as if modern web design is about making websites less usable. And the solution offered by many publishers is to encourage users to download the publishers' native mobile apps. ????????

It's some kind of bizarre circle or maybe a circle within a circle within a circle. Make the web more complicated by adding features that make websites function similar to native mobile apps. This creates websites so bloated and hard to use that publishers push users to install the publishers' native apps to view their content.

Of course, another reason exists for why publishers push their native apps: users cannot block ads within native apps.

At one time, Medium.com offered a pleasant, reader-friendly, mostly empathetic web reading experience, across all devices. But over the past two or three years, Medium's web reading experience has become so hostile, that I mostly ignore accessing links that point to medium.com posts. About the only way that I read a Medium post is with uMatrix cranked up, blocking everything except HTML.

And one reason why Medium's web reading experience is annoying, especially on mobile devices, is because Medium constantly pushes users to download Medium's native mobile app.

Why maintain websites if the web publishers want users to install native apps? What was the point of over-complicating the web if ultimately the goal is to get users to download native apps?

Naturally, not all websites and web app tools provide native apps, which leaves us exposed to the unnecessarily complex, bloated web. Could websites and web apps be designed simpler? Of course. But developers want to use cool, sophisticated technology, even if it's overkill for the task.

And maybe website and web app owners believe that users might view their sites and tools as amateurish if an older, simpler web design is used over the modern, clunky, bloated web.

This decade, users have grown accustomed to difficult-to-use websites. Is it possible that users now associate complex websites with professionalism? If so, that has to please web developers who can create more unnecessarily cool stuff. The cool factor outweighs usefulness.

I guess Craigslist remains an outlier because of its age and, most importantly, because of it's usefulness.

Did web users demand websites function like native apps, or was this an issue of tech people knowing better than non-tech people? The non-techies did not know what they wanted until the tech people gave it to them.

Modern web design has worked out well this decade. The most popular "browser" for many mobile phone users is not a web browser. It's Facebook's native mobile app.

Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages because the modern, bloated web design, probably pushed by Google, helped media orgs to create some of the worst designed websites on the planet.

It's hilarious. Google helped to create a modern, complex, bloated web by adding new, complex features to its Chrome web browser. After web publishers adopted bloated web designs to display text, Google created a solution by pushing a simpler web design with its AMP technology. AMP is sort of Google's own web standard to make terrible websites usable on mobile devices.

It's like the government. Create or enable problems and then offer solutions to their problems.

Mozilla has tried to keep up with the modern, bloated, complex web with its Firefox web browser. Firefox contains over 35 million lines of code, but Firefox only has around four percent browser share.

And some geeks wonder why we don't have more independent web browser development.

A simpler web could have allowed for more independent web browser development to occur. Why did tech want to blur the line between mobile native apps and web design for mobile devices?

Jun 26, 2019

Hacker News thread that pointed to a post, titled HTML is the Web.

Excerpts from one HN comment.

The reason HTML and the web was so well accepted back in the day was all you had to learn were a few HTML tags, a couple of properties and then drop it onto a Geocities site and you were good to go. It was something you can do and see real progress on in 10 minutes with very little background knowledge.

That actually is still possible today, although not at Geocities. While the web is used for too much complexity and bloat, a lightweight, fast, and simplified web can coexist with the bloated web. Web pages last updated in the 1990s can still be displayed today. That sturdiness is a major positive of the web. Thus far, the wonderful computer scientists who maintain the web standards have not eliminated the ability to display functional, lightweight web pages in "modern" web browsers.

More from the HN comment:

Compare that to now where if you wanted to be a "trendy front-end dev" you would probably reach for Vue / React + Webpack* and go SPA style for all of the sites you make because you learned something and now you want to apply it everywhere.

Meanwhile to serve a document such as a blog post, you just went from having 15 HTML tags in a single HTML file and some CSS to pulling megabytes of Javascript sprawled across hundreds of dependencies and now you have build tools, an entire runtime environment (Node) and are using APIs that don't exactly match up with HTML exactly, and then your entire site isn't even crawlable by search engines unless you introduce even more complexity to do server side rendering and before you know it, you're dealing with something that's even more complicated than Flash was back in the day.

* I personally use Webpack to handle my assets too, but I don't write SPAs for sites that are document based (which tbh are most sites).

Another HN comment from that same Jun 26, 2019 thread.

The 1995 view is superior. It loads fast, doesn't hog CPU, never does anything unexpected, and has limited tracking capacity. I cringe whenever I browse without NoScript. If your pages can't render in my sandbox I just go somewhere more sensible.

It's good to see that a few people maintain thoughts about the web that are similar to mine.

I like the author's comment about "my sandbox." That reminds me of my terms of service.

I subscribe to the Toledo Blade, but I read the Blade via my own web app that displays no ads and uses no JavaScript. I consider the Blade's hellhole of a website to be a security and privacy unknown. The Blade's website uses a hostile web design for logged-in subscribers who want to read information.

If I could not read the Blade via my own web app that runs on a server that I lease, then I would not subscribe to the Blade.

That's business. It's my money. The Blade is not a charity. If the Blade and the craft of journalism want respect, then the newspaper industry needs to respect its readers, especially its paying customers by not creating horrendous delivery mechanisms.

None of the Blade's delivery products are worth funding. The Blade offers reader-hostile delivery products.

If the newspaper industry fails to respect paying customers by displaying ads and trackers to subscribers, then I have no sympathy for the newspapers disappearing.

WaPo claims privacy and ads can co-exist. What works is blocking JavaScript which blocks nearly all ads. That improves privacy.

The Blade has my subscription because I chose to give the Blade my money. The Blade, however, does not have my permission to push ads, trackers, and other crapware into the web browsers that run on computers that I bought.

Those are my terms of service. If the Blade does not accept my terms of service, then I will gladly stop paying them a monthly fee that will increase in June 2019 from $9.99 a month to $12.99 a month.

The way that I read the Blade is probably a violation of the Blade's terms of service. That's why I'm a paying customer. And I consider the Blade's website to be a violation of human decency.

Sep 5, 2019

"Browser Fingerprinting: An Introduction and the Challenges Ahead (torproject.org)"

https://blog.torproject.org/browser-fingerprinting-introduction-and-challenges-ahead

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20882142

HN comment:

Tor's anti-fingerprinting measures are available in Firefox. They're off by default, but you can enable them by going to the about:config page, searching "privacy.resistFingerprinting" and setting to "true"

Another HN comment:

As long as browsers are heading into the direction of more and more functionality, APIs and complexity, I get the feeling that being un-fingerprintable is going to be a lost battle.

HN comment:

Currently you will need to outright disable Javascript to defeat fingerprinting, and it will stay that way unless browsers actually cooperate and standardize ways to present a unified API and default values.

HN comment:

We fought a similar battle with Javascript-enabled sites (remember when sites worked without Javascript?) and lost.

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