Web browsers were very limited compared to today’s offerings but still very extensive when compared to other applications. Now, browsers on desktop are at a point where they’re equivalent to an OS in scope.

This frustrates me as it’s led to stagnation, where very few companies can hold their position. Firefox can only keep up due to preexisting groundwork and the large amount of funding from Google. Chrome had billions thrown at it to quickly enter the market.

The thing that kills it the most for me is there is no way to fix the massive amount of effort needed for a web browser. It’s extensive because it has to deal with thousands of situations: image rendering, video rendering, markup language support (HTML), CSS support, JavaScript support, HTML5 support, security features, tabbed browsing, bookmarking and history, search engine integration, cross-platform compatibility, performance optimisation, developer tools, accessibility features, privacy controls, codec support, to name a few.

Now, for my unpopular opinion: stripping back a general-purpose browser to its core, forcing web redesign, and modularising the browser. Rather than watching videos in the browser, an instance of VLC would be started where the video will be streamed. Instead of an integrated password manager and bookmarks, we have something akin to KeepassXC with better integration. Markup documents and articles automatically open in word processing applications. I know this idea seems wholly impossible now, but it often crosses my mind.

  • @Boozilla@lemmy.world
    link
    fedilink
    14
    edit-2
    13 days ago

    Your post has some merits, and I agree with some of it in spirit. But to me there are bigger issues at play. So many sites now perform horribly, not because of browser bloat, but because of crappy code on the server, relentless data harvesting, and targeted ads. And surfing the web without multiple layers of protection against bad actors is not a good idea. The whole thing is a shit show.

  • kersploosh
    link
    fedilink
    1313 days ago

    It feels like you’re asking to go back to the late '90s. I clearly remember juggling plugins for Netscape Navigator and assigning MIME types to various apps. It was a mess. Modern integrated browsers are so much more predictable and user-friendly than the patchwork approach.

    • @squid_slimeOP
      link
      4
      edit-2
      13 days ago

      I am going to be lazy I hope you dont mind but someone said something very similar to what you have said and here is my response

      Sadly I didn’t have access to tech till 2015ish lol but I know of Netscape and I know software was a lot harder to master forsure, this evolved though.

      I’m not harkening back to some rose tinted glasses version of early computing rather I see an issue where the bar to entry is set very high for both hardware and developers as the sheer amount of code, knowledge and hours to build a compatible modern web browser is mad. I dont think modulising the browser equates to harder to use as we made phone with operating systems that were once alien which have a very modular approach when I click a YouTube link in my phones browser it opens the YouTube client, if I click a PDF it opens the PDF client, if I click a phone number it opens the dialer. and so on.

  • Cloudless ☼
    link
    fedilink
    1213 days ago

    Remember when Netscape Navigator was the dominant web browser? The early versions of Netscape were light. We had to use Flash Player for interactive media and RealPlayer for video streaming.

    I don’t know how to feel about your opinion. While I like applications (and websites) to be light and simple, the Netscape kind of integration was a mess. Microsoft used ActiveX which was a security nightmare.

    Modern browsers allow feature-rich applications to be built without depending on external services, which provides a seamless experience to users, especially non-technical users.

    What I would prefer is a more bare-bone browser, but with add-ons supporting features as needed. I really dislike how Firefox bundles Pocket when it should be an add-on instead.

    • @squid_slimeOP
      link
      6
      edit-2
      13 days ago

      Sadly I didn’t have access to tech till 2015ish lol but I know of Netscape and I know software was a lot harder to master forsure, this evolved though.

      I’m not harkening back to some rose tinted glasses version of early computing rather I see an issue where the bar to entry is set very high for both hardware and developers as the sheer amount of code, knowledge and hours to build a compatible modern web browser is mad. I dont think modulising the browser equates to harder to use as we made phone with operating systems that were once alien which have a very modular approach when I click a YouTube link in my phones browser it opens the YouTube client, if I click a PDF it opens the PDF client, if I click a phone number it opens the dialer. and so on.

      • @tsonfeir
        link
        613 days ago

        2015

        Get out of here. You’ve no idea how much better it is now.

  • Sal
    link
    fedilink
    713 days ago

    I agreed in principal, but getting the software to where I click and it just works would be difficult. Plus an average person would have a harder time understanding what to do. Like if I want to watch a video it transparently open vlc and plays, what would happened if it fails. I know my mother would not understand she would have to close or restart vlc.

    • @squid_slimeOP
      link
      213 days ago

      If I wanted to download arch linux torrent I can go to arch’s download page, click the magnet icon and my torrent manager open and downloads the file. Now if browsers were stripped down tomorrow people had to relearn how to use chrome/Firefox then yea it would definitely be problematic.

  • @person
    link
    6
    edit-2
    12 days ago

    deleted by creator

    • @squid_slimeOP
      link
      213 days ago

      This is very true, maybe the quite comfort is the enemy of progress fits here.

  • schmorp
    link
    fedilink
    313 days ago

    I can understand you. It would also probably make sense for who uses older hardware.

  • Down vote because I agree.

    But let me introduce you to luakit, vimb, and similar browsers, which do indeed try to minimize the browser footprint - and to varying degrees of success.

    And then let me next introduce you to Gemini, which can truly claim to be The Web, light. There’s quite a bit of content, but it has been slow to gain traction and could be claimed to have stalled. If Gemini has failed, it’s because it was pared too far back; even the gmi markup language is primitive, bare-bones, and unnecessarily ugly. Great idea, not so great execution.

  • @kayazere@feddit.nl
    link
    fedilink
    29 days ago

    I’d suggest getting rid of client side rendering and JavaScript. At some point web developers decided to try to emulate desktop app UIs and cram it into the browser. Websites used to be rendered on the server and the HTML was just sent to the client, which had to just parse and displayed natively. Is was really fast and efficient. This would also be a massive win for privacy and it would automatically eliminate all the spyware/adware client side JavaScript code.

  • southsamurai
    link
    fedilink
    112 days ago

    Man, I totally agree, and most people look at me like I’m trolling them when I talk about it.

    “Just use chrome, it has all kinds of apps in it”, a direct quote from my sister, as an example.

  • rakoo
    link
    fedilink
    1
    edit-2
    12 days ago

    I hear you. Browsers reinvent everything to fit in a single application and don’t really integrate in their environment.

    Uzbl at https://www.uzbl.org/ has already been cited, but it’s unfortunately dormant. Perhaps the task of having to re-do all the plumbing turns out to be too big.

    I’ve been using Plan9’s Acme (along with Plan9’s plumber), for a while now as an editor, and I feel like it has elements to make your vision at least a little reality. How Acme and plumber work is that any string can trigger arbitrary commands, and any arbitrary command can open windows in Acme.

    The simplest is a local link: if I click on /home/rakoo/myfile.txt, it opens in Acme. If i click on /home/rakoo/mybook.pdf, it opens in a pdf viewer. So far, nothing fancy. But I have configured it so that if I click on /home/rakoo/mypage.html, the html page is rendered into text and opened in Acme again. And if I click on https://aaa.bbb.ccc, it fetches the page and renders it in Acme. Clicking on https://foo.bar.com/image.jpeg opens it in my image viewer. If I click on ls(1) the manpage of ls is rendered into Acme, and I can do editor stuff to that (and click on other links if I want)

    Acme itself can (and usually is) “scripted” into little applications: clicks can be interpreted to do something in the same window, such that new pages are opened in the same for example, with a way to go Back and Forward. The application can see that the website wants credentials and fetch them from my KeepassXC. Bookmarks are files with freeform text if I want, and I can search through it.

    Acme is not perfect of course, it doesn’t display images at all and has no text coloring. But it demonstrates the possibility of a truly hackable tool that can actually be a User Agent.

    If you’re curious I encourage you to look at https://research.swtch.com/acme for a tour of Acme and what it can do :)

    (Its authors say that contrary to Integrated Development Environments, Acme is an Integrat*ing* Development Environment in that it integrates external, working parts into itself)

    @permacomputing