02.25.21

Gemini version available ♊︎

Eventually, or Hopefully, Many People Will Come Back to What the Web Used to Be (Or Web Alternatives More Like the ‘Old’ Web)

Posted in Site News at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: With RSS feeds making a comeback and a resurgence of personal blogs we can take back the Web from a cabal of tech/Internet giants and social control media, censored, curated and spied on by oligarchy

THE growth of Gemini is very much real (we keep track of usage every now and then) and people fleeing social control media is also a reality; sometimes they get banned for protesting against it (in effect, using their presence in those platforms only to harm those platforms).

“Let’s move away from what the Web has become and is still becoming (worse and worse over time).”Yesterday I attempted to explain the advantages of self-hosting videos, even if that can be rather expensive and a potential nightmare logistically (many large files and high bandwidth usage). We recently wrote about self-hosting also in the following posts:

Given the censorious atmosphere online (years ago Donald Trump was a pretext for it and nowadays COVID or vaccination is a popular pretext, equating some views with threat to public safety) we need to self-reflect. They always say that they crack down on “misinformation” or “harmful content”, but harmful to who? Advertisers? Corporations? They don’t even say anymore. They deplatform, demonetise, ban, delist and so on… without any form of accountability, let alone a right to appeal decisions.

Click to playI personally regret spending in Twitter as much time as I did; until a year ago I still spent some time in that site. I had been there since 2009, but I never posted there directly. In terms of video, even though I used to upload some videos to YouTube I always posted a self-hosted (primary) copy here in Techrights, either as Ogg or as WebM (last year we also used MP4 for a little while, due to conversion woes). Our fate is nowadays almost 100% self-hosting/hosted, seeing that the Web is increasingly hostile towards a fast-broadening spectrum of views. Even benign viewpoints that just a decade ago or a few years ago were exceptionally widespread, even popular. The censors would go as far as deleting things from a decade ago if today’s scopes/optics suggest or deem them “unacceptable” (for something like “misinformation” or “hate speech”, which can be rather vague).

Video: click to playYesterday, in an attempt to enhance a cross-platform and cross-protocol (even self-hosted and peer-shared) video playback, we crafted the image on the right. It becomes the default “poster” for each video produced from now on (thereto the first frame was used by default). The boring details are, it was composed using the following couple of photos, with the above text overlaid (generated in the GIMP).

Play and pause

Video

Videos are a growing thing because bandwidth is generally increasing in more parts of the world. It’s getting cheaper — to the point where HD films (with DRM to restrict playback) are sent across continents, overrunning networks and bringing rise to throttling/capping.

What we plan to do in the coming years is more videos, but those won’t be outsourced. They will be possible to subscribe to over RSS or the Gemini equivalent (gemini://gemini.techrights.org/feed and gemini://gemini.techrights.org/daily-feed) and copies are occasionally made over IPFS by people who follow the site. This helps reduce bandwidth constraints, in effect letting people share directly (among one another) videos in the same way PeerTube strives to. Our aim is to reduce, where possible, the use of the Web, HTTP, and HTML. RSS (XML) is very good, IPFS is very efficient, Gemini is very lightweight and noise-/clutter-free. Let’s move away from what the Web has become and is still becoming (worse and worse over time).

There’s a certain hope that Internet tycoons and Web oligarchs (conglomerates, magnates, whatever…) will one day ask, “where have all the people gone?”

Or… “why is the Web shrinking and people don’t participate like before?”

Our answer will be, “people have moved on. They use alternatives to that centralised old Web?”

The Old Guard will then respond, “how do we join or how do we take over those other things?”

Our reply? “Nobody invited you and we don’t want you. Stay away. You’ve already ruined the Web and we don’t want you ruining another thing.”

Where Gemini stands today reminds me a great deal of WordPress in 2004, back when we had a closely- or tightly-knit community with amicable mailing lists and way, way before WordPress ran many millions of sites, infesting them with proprietary (non-GPL) add-ons, not to mention infinite JavaScript bloat and remote updates. I know because I played a role in that community and left (in my capacity as volunteer/coder/hacker) around the time it became a for-profit company.

Gemini faces similar threats, but people fight back. To quote what Drew DeVault wrote 3 days ago:

Gemini is constantly at a dire risk of being extended upon, a pattern which will ultimately drive it to suffer the fate of the very problems of the web which motivated its creation in the first place. I like Gemini, and if we want Gemini to continue being likable, then it cannot grow in this fashion.

This is not the first time we’ve dealt with this problem. This mailing list is a constant stream of pleas for spec additions. Inline styles, inline images, tables, forms and POST equivalents, the list goes on and on and on. This mailing list is obsessed with reinventing the web, and that’s NOT what Gemini is for. Solderpunk has been quite clear on this.

The only means we have of regulating this behavior is by making a statement with our client and server implementations. This is not the first such statement I’ve made. First I stated that I would require SNI:

https://lists.orbitalfox.eu/archives/gemini/2020/003160.html

This was added to the spec shortly thereafter.

I also made a statement regarding robots.txt:

https://lists.orbitalfox.eu/archives/gemini/2020/003506.html

In this case: surprise, portals are just user agents, and blocking them is blocking users. Dick move.

Most recently, favicons. Contrary to Sean’s nasty comments, I am only making statements on behalf of *my* software, not Gemini as a whole, and I have every right to. You have every right to make statements on behalf of your software, too. Clients like Amfora have already done so by implementing favicons. Mine is a statement of opposition, and we will ultimately have to come to some kind of consensus. This is how protocol ecosystems work.

There’s a lot more in there, including stronger words.

The Web “being extended upon” (to reuse the wording above) is what got us to the current mess, wherein even DRM is now part of the “specs” or the “standard”, strictly requiring surfers to put binary (proprietary) blobs inside their Web browsers (to not be denied access). DeVault’s “colourful” message would likely be dismissed and ignored, but he’s spot on as what we need is a replacement to the Web, not “another Web”.

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