Re: [dev] rebooting the web (it was: surf rewrite for WebKit2GTK)

From: Ralph Eastwood <>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:43:03 +0000

Reinventing the web has been on my mind for a long while.

I agree with some of the ideas so far, but I've also tried to boil it
down to the basics.
So, currently, what do we use the web for.

Here are my uses (if your uses are significantly different or if I
have missed something, please reply!):

- for software (github, sourceforge, etc.)
- for news
- random humour
- academic journals/articles

- reading forums
- replying to forums

- reading blogs
- commenting on blog posts

Online shopping
- Amazon etc.

Software bug trackers
- Github

Social networking
- Linkedin
- Facebook etc.
- Twitter (I don't use it)

Web applications
- Google drive
- Google office applications for when I can't be bothered to boot into Windows
- Games (I don't play web games, but conceivably others might)

I can't think of any more at the moment. I'll first exclude web
applications from the discussion, as they are another kettle of fish
to discuss and I believe they shouldn't be on the web.

The basic interaction with most of them is purely textual. Normally we
receive text (and/or with some images and other media), laid out on a
page - and we read it.
With some, we do some announcing/replying, as we would on a mailing
list, and that information sticks and remains there.
In a true suckless fashion, this sort of interaction could be
represented in a file-based system, although it would be probably far
from being pleasant to use.

This leaves us with some way of presenting it to the user; lo and
behold - we have HTML! But no, HTML(5) is horrible nowadays with the
plethora of different technologies interacting around it wildly.
I think it's because there's too much flexibility in HTML - the
question is... do we actually need markup? Gopher [4] didn't really
see the need for this.

"The World Wide Web (abbreviated as WWW or W3,[1] commonly known as
the Web) is a system of interlinked hypertext documents that are
accessed via the Internet. With a web browser, one can view web pages
that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and
navigate between them via hyperlinks." [0]

Note, there it refers to 'hypertext' documents - and if you follow the
definition of hypertext, the 'hyper' refers just to hyperlinking.
Granted that hyperlinks in HTML uses HTML markup to define it, but
point still stands, web content and layouting should be separate.

Even [1] seems to omit any mention of how the information is to be
shared is to be presented; this leads me to two interpretations:
- Markup seemed a natural thing to add; Tim Berners-Lee was
transmitting documents [2], and a new format of document in those days
that contained this magic hyperlinks was probably not such a far
fetched idea.
- Markup is part of the information; I can't disagree with this.

We can delve further into the second interpretation, and put it out
into the context of what we see on the web (that is useful). It is
normally used to enhance semantic meaning: titles, menus and
hyperlinks look different because they represent structure and meaning
to a web page. Yet, in themselves, we can associate that meaning
rather than some subjective pretty markup descriptor that only helps
distinguish them from the normal text.
In a way, this is what the semantic web [3], probably overdoes - we
don't want to have the XML mess, we just want to bloody (oops, I feel
my opinionated self waking from slumber) communicate. I also recall a
drive a few years ago to try and use XML, XSLT and XHTML to do a lot
of this data/semantic/layout separation, but that didn't really come
to fruition.

Now, we come back to how one potential way of rebooting the web can go:
To summarise where my train of thought is going so far is: we have
information coming to the user from some source, and the user having
the ability to send some information back which *sticks* where you
sent it for others to read.
Websites provide interfaces to do this in varying ways; but if you
think about the standard uses, these are relatively consistent and
over the years they have reached a kind of uniformity.
This means we could, conceivably design a consistent interface to
"types" of "information-outlets". The most markup for the text we
could probably need is something like Markdown? A point to discuss
here; we want to avoid layouting in the content but maintain

There are many benefits to this: the underlying layer could still be a
file-system based interface and you could have a standard layout that
could mean you could have your own custom client to access if you so
choose. Perhaps there could be a 'layouting' language, that would
provide the intended views that should appear on a screen for websites
that need a significantly different method of interaction to the user.
As a nice side-effect, this would help users that need accessibility
as then there are so much less that can go wrong with screen reading
devices and fallbacks that can always work.

There are many more ideas I have floating around my head about what
this could be used for, but I'll let them percolate a bit longer for

Hopefully my discussion/argument makes sense - a friend of mine told
me that the idea sounded like imposing a Communist regime on the
masses :)

On 29 October 2014 04:58, Louis Santillan <> wrote:
> Some of the ideas you identified in "rebooting the web" were more
> clearly and concisely conveyed in Ian Hickson's Google+ post [0][1].
> Specifically, Ian mentioned that anything that replaces the "web" will
> have to be radically better ("faster, easier to author in, easier to
> develop for, easier to monetize"). Several people have pointed out
> why other attempts like XML, XForms, Java, Flash, and .Net have
> failed. And, I agree with Crockford [2] when he states that parsing
> source code like JS is better (faster, safer, portable, extensible)
> than verifying bytecode (Java, .Net, Flash).
> While I think 9P/Styx, I think many web developers would recognize
> that as RESTful APIs [3] built on URIs/URLs, HTTP verbs, and JSON.
> But, it looks like someone else has already considered porting Inferno
> to the current web [4].

Ideas like RESTful APIs could adopted in implementing my web-reboot
utopia as would 9P/Styx.

I'm still working on the idea of web applications; current usage of
web-applications (by which I refer to games, and heavy javascript
based software running on a web page that don't fit in my model of the
web) concern me due to the blurring of programs on the client-side and
on the server-side. Apart from the privacy concerns, it also feels
like the Unix philosophy is being ignored. However, having said that,
Inferno is probably the best tool what that job if it boils down to
it. If web applications had to be thrown in my current model, I would
allocate web applications to become another media attachment to the

Can we coin a handy name for the web-reboot future discussions?
Something along the lines of 'sweb'.

Tai Chi Minh Ralph Eastwood
Received on Wed Oct 29 2014 - 15:43:03 CET

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