Tue, 21 Jul 2020 21:37:19 +0200
How and why I (attempt to) use Links as main browser
Many browsers today are gigantic resource hogs, which are basically VMs for various web applications. On the other hand, Links is a HTML browser. It is not able to do everything. It allows me to avoid most distractions and control the content-experience. The goal of this exercise is not to force anyone to use this browser, but just to be watchful and conscious of their hypertext based internet usage (one might use gopher, and this phlog is available there, but probability tells me that a person reading this reads this from hypertext source and I am sure they are lovely).
I use links compiled with X11 support and with Xembed patch for tabbed. I execute it using a script, and then I use surfraw with dmenu to have a uniform search function and bookmarks that work with all my browsers. That is all you need to know. Interesting trivia: Julian Assange made surfraw. Huh.
First, I want to focus on ‘destruction’ of CSS. As Links does not support modern CSS it renders most of the internet as-is, and will only contain images (on which I will write later). CSS causes the internet to become a baroque set of arbitrary design decisions, and does not contribute positively to the general experience. Links (after 2.19) allows me to pick my own font, my own background/foreground/url color. Thus, I have a uniform experience. In that I already visibly save time/energy/brain processing power, etc. To deal with senselessly complex sites (news pages with >1 MB JS, I am looking at you) I use and tedu’s miniwebproxy. It delimits the content even more, and removes elements that are not of interest for me (top,bottom,side bars, recommended content, etc.).
JS is the main cause for the way internet changed, for better or worse. It changed content into dissimilar applications. It allowed for measurement of attention and penalization of the experience. I am critical of that, and Links has no JS support. Perfect. Nothing more to be spoken of. If I need JS I will use another browser which emulates anything Google considers good internet experience. But, that currently is not my goal.
Now, going from a little controversy to a giant controversy. Images (in the modern web) are uninformative, but are simply advertisements of content. They are made to take over your attention and again, make the experience less uniform. Links does not force you to disable images (as there are cases when they are useful - i.e. Wikipedia), but has a function to not load them. Again, as with everything it allows for more uniformity.
The word attempt is key here, and primarily I use it for Wikipedia articles, directed searches (with surfraw), browsing youtube through invidio.us, browsing twitter through nitter.net, but sadly majority of my usage still ends up in a Chrome-like (that includes Firefox). But writing and thinking like this allows to see what are the issues with the modern web and how they can be approached. Using Links is a radical solution, but as with many via negativa solutions, they teach us what are the things that are needed for valuable UX.
I think trying is great. I have not explained how to do it, cause the task of that is manpages and other analysis to get to know your wanted experience, and not the wanted experience of someone else. Although, it just maybe a continuation of a liberal dream of ability to control your own consumer experience. The reality is you never have to, as there is no possibility of changing the entire internet for better, but you might find things that you can make better. Or only not worse. You can also try out gopher, but it is much more radical experience.