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?

@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.


@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.

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@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.

@ajroach42 @freakazoid @enkiv2 has a good explanation.

Its interesting that digital studies are showing a lot of confusion about the optimal length off a printed page, or if there is one.

@Canageek @freakazoid @enkiv2 ah. A valid discussion. Ultimately, IMO, that should beg left in the hands of the user. Set some sane defaults, allow for simple customization.

I like the idea of pulling in content from multiple sources in to multiple columns on one screen, personally. But I suspect there is no “right answer” here.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid Right, but feature support has to be there. I think Vivaldi is experimenting with some of these features actually.

@Canageek @freakazoid @enkiv2 sure. If someone implements a windowing system that can handle these things, I don’t see a reason not to support them.

But most of that should be handled by the windowing system, I think?

GUI design is not my area of expertise.

@ajroach42 @enkiv2 @freakazoid The issue is due to tabs, browsers are basically window managers now.

@Canageek @enkiv2 @ajroach42 Tabs are a hack around the fact that the window management available to most users is an utter disaster.

Which brings up an interesting point: applications are hobbling themseves by being crossplatform. They're stuck either not integrating in any interesting way or doing their own bespoke internal integrations that don't match anything else on the platform.

@freakazoid @ajroach42 @enkiv2 I mean, at the same time, it lets me have a hundred tabs saved that I don't have cluttering up my desktop. Basically lets me put all my windows into a browser box rather then trying to deal with them each one by one.

@Canageek @enkiv2 @ajroach42 Like I said, window management is a disaster. There are a bunch of Linux window managers that let you stack windows into a single tabbed box.

@freakazoid @ajroach42 @enkiv2 Which ones would you recommend? I've only got experience with Gnome and XFCE. I liked KDE3.X when I used it, but it wouldn't run on the linux machine I had back when I was using it daily.

@Canageek @enkiv2 @ajroach42 I have tried dozens of window managers, including many few here will have ever heard of (GWM, for example), and I think i3 is the best one hands down. I tried Awesome and Ratpoison when I was looking for a tiling window manager, and I found Awesome to be too inflexible and Ratpoison to be too minimalist. I3 is fully controllable via CLI (dbus, actually), and its configuration language is powerful without being overly complex.

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If acme did hypertext -- well, we wouldn't have a browser exactly, but we'd have something that does better on all the things that we're looking to keep browsers doing.

@Canageek @ajroach42

I was working on a lightweight hypertext thing with parallel windows (not transpointing but spans are color-coded and aligned) & acme would probably be a substantially better model than the UI I currently have for it.
@Canageek @ajroach42

@enkiv2 @ajroach42 @Canageek Even X11 apps used to use multiple windows quite extensively. Not sure what led to the switch. We're not quite back to MDI, but the main difference between the current approach and MDI is that we have little to no control of the layout of subwindows within the main window.

I don't think being cross-platform is a bad thing. It's just a shame that the most popular mechanism for cross-platform GUI dev is the only one that doesn't have good support for pseudo-native widgets.

@ajroach42 @Canageek

@enkiv2 @Canageek @ajroach42 Which mechanism is that? Qt seems to do a decent job. SDL, not so much, but it's targeted more at game dev.

SDL doesn't have a native widget mechanism because SDL doesn't have widgets.

I'm thinking of the equivalent of mmtk for tk. Swing has one, whose name I've forgotten. GTK & QT have them but I never knew their names in the first place. It's a mechanism to skin toolkit widgets based on current OS themes & make them behave like native widgets (sometimes by actually turning them into native widgets).
@ajroach42 @Canageek

Both TK & Swing actually have this mechanism (sort of) out of the box, in that both can simulate sets of native widgets through a built-in config setting for a certain set of styles -- notably motif. mmtk seems not to be a wrapper over this that identifies which style is apprpriate: it creates even the elaborate osx translucent scrollbars and such.

@ajroach42 @Canageek

@freakazoid @ajroach42 @enkiv2

For example, LaTeX the standard way to size an image is as a fraction of \textwidth (or \pagewidth) (Though you can do it in cm, that could be removed)


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