A very thoughtful post from Stuart, ostensibly about “view source”, but really about empowerment, choice, and respect.
I like that the web is made up of separate bits that you can see if you want to. You can understand how it works by piecing together the parts. It’s not meant to be a sealed unit, an appliance which does what the owner wants it to and restricts everything else. That’s what apps do. The web’s better than that.
Lesson learned: the discoverable and understandable web is still do-able — it’s there waiting to be discovered. It just needs some commitment from the people who make websites.
Anil documents the steady decline of empowering features from web browsers: view source; in-situ authoring; transclusion, but finishes with the greatest loss of all: your own website at your own address.
There are no technical barriers for why we couldn’t share our photos to our own sites instead of to Instagram, or why we couldn’t post stupid memes to our own web address instead of on Facebook or Reddit. There are social barriers, of course — if we stubbornly used our own websites right now, none of our family or friends would see our stuff. Yet there’s been a dogged community of web nerds working on that problem for a decade or two, trying to see if they can get the ease or convenience of sharing on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to work across a distributed network where everyone has their own websites.
(Although it’s a bit of shame that Anil posted this on Ev’s blog instead of his own.)
I wonder if I have twenty years of experience making websites, or if it is really five years of experience, repeated four times.
I saw Frank give this talk at Mirror Conf last year and it resonated with me so so much. I’ve been looking forward to him publishing the transcript ever since. If you’re anything like me, this will read as though it’s coming from directly inside your head.
In one way, it is easier to be inexperienced: you don’t have to learn what is no longer relevant. Experience, on the other hand, creates two distinct struggles: the first is to identify and unlearn what is no longer necessary (that’s work, too). The second is to remain open-minded, patient, and willing to engage with what’s new, even if it resembles a new take on something you decided against a long time ago.
I could just keep quoting the whole thing, because it’s all brilliant, but I’ll stop with one more bit about the increasing complexity of build processes and the decreasing availability of a simple view source:
Illegibility comes from complexity without clarity. I believe that the legibility of the source is one of the most important properties of the web. It’s the main thing that keeps the door open to independent, unmediated contributions to the network. If you can write markup, you don’t need Medium or Twitter or Instagram (though they’re nice to have). And the best way to help someone write markup is to make sure they can read markup.
Here’s the talk I gave at Mozilla’s View Source event. I really enjoyed talking about the indie web, both from the big-picture view and the nitty gritty.
In these times of centralised services like Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, having your own website is downright disruptive. If you care about the longevity of your online presence, independent publishing is the way to go. But how can you get all the benefits of those third-party services while still owning your own data? By using the building blocks of the Indie Web, that’s how!
We don’t want the field to de-democratize and become the province solely of those who can slog through a computer science degree.
So we need new tools that let everyone see, understand, and remix today’s web. We need, in other words, to reboot the culture of View Source.
See, view source is a human right. Since the beginning of the web, thousands, probably millions, of users have bootstrapped their way to technical understanding through exploring the way the existing web is put together. I did. You might have done. And you, we, should be able to. And more than that, we should be encouraged to. For fun, for experience, for education, for revolution.
James is right. And he’s made a script to encourage further exploration.
welcome.js adds a friendly message to the console when it’s first opened, as well as links for users to find out more about the console, and programming in general.
Here’s the video of the talk I gave in Berlin recently. I had a lot to squeeze into a short time slot so I just went for it, and I got bit carried away …but people seemed to like that.
Jake describes the pivotal moment of his web awakening:
I explored the world wide web. I was amazed by the freedom of information, how anyone could publish, anyone could read. Then I found a little button labeled “View source”. That was the moment I fell in love with the web.
It all goes back to having a ZX Spectrum apparently. Pah! Luxury! I had a ZX81—one K of RAM …1K! Tell that to the young people today, and they wouldn’t believe you.
Anyway, this is a lovely little reminiscence by Jake, although I have no idea why he hasn’t published it on his own site.
This is the worst idea for a W3C community group ever. Come to think of it, it’s the worst idea for an idea ever.
I like this suggestion. If you’re using minified CSS in production, it would be a nice gesture to have an easily-discoverable unminified version for people to view source on.
More on View Source, this time from Bruce.
The Web has thrived on people viewing source, copying and pasting, then tweaking until they get the page they want.
Stuart on the importance of View Source.