Software, Hardware, Silverware

Entries tagged: The Web


The Internet with a Human Face

Maciej Cegłowski:

Our lives have become split between two worlds with two very different norms around memory.

The offline world works like it always has. I saw many of you talking yesterday between sessions; I bet none of you has a verbatim transcript of those conversations. If you do, then I bet the people you were talking to would find that extremely creepy.

I saw people taking pictures, but there’s a nice set of gestures and conventions in place for that. You lift your camera or phone when you want to record, and people around you can see that. All in all, it works pretty smoothly.

The online world is very different. Online, everything is recorded by default, and you may not know where or by whom. If you’ve ever wondered why Facebook is such a joyless place, even though we’ve theoretically surrounded ourselves with friends and loved ones, it’s because of this need to constantly be wearing our public face. Facebook is about as much fun as a zoning board hearing.

Definitely worth reading the whole thing.

Programming Sucks

Peter Welch:

Remember that stuff about crazy people and bad code? The internet is that except it’s literally a billion times worse. Websites that are glorified shopping carts with maybe three dynamic pages are maintained by teams of people around the clock, because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone. Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There’s a team at a Google office that hasn’t slept in three days. Somewhere there’s a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she’s dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

You can’t restart the internet. Trillions of dollars depend on a rickety cobweb of unofficial agreements and “good enough for now” code with comments like “TODO: FIX THIS IT’S A REALLY DANGEROUS HACK BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG” that were written ten years ago. I haven’t even mentioned the legions of people attacking various parts of the internet for espionage and profit or because they’re bored. Ever heard of 4chan? 4chan might destroy your life and business because they decided they didn’t like you for an afternoon, and we don’t even worry about 4chan because another nuke doesn’t make that much difference in a nuclear winter.

The Motion Picture Organization

My side project with Jesse DeWeerth relaunched a couple days ago with an awesome new name and an awesome new URL and an awesome new WordPress-powered backend. I present to thee, The Motion Picture Organization (née Bad Movie Reviewers).

Origin of Doge

Kyle Cayka reporting on the origin of the Doge meme1 for The Verge:

The furry face that launched a thousand quips nearly never made it to the web. Sato adopted Kabosu from an animal shelter in November, 2008, saving her from certain death. “She was a pedigreed dog from a puppy mill, and when the puppy mill closed down, she was abandoned along with 19 other Shiba dogs,” the teacher explained. “Some of them were adopted, but the rest of them were killed.”

For those unfamiliar, the Doge meme is the pinnacle of memes. It is what the internet has been moving toward all along. Annalee Newitz called it “a meme of contemplation rather than action”. Such contemplate. Many think. Wow.

  1. For the actual origin, see here↩︎

Motherfucking Website

Unfortunately no German ever said that, ever.

‘The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Heard Of’

MG Siegler on the Twitter IPO:

All of the best new ideas sound stupid to most people at some point. This isn’t rocket science: if an idea is immediately obvious to so many people, it would have been done already. My point is simply that not only is hearing “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of” not a bad sign, it has the potential to be a great one.

Star Wars Opening Crawl in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Tim Pietrusky has recreated the original 1977 Star Wars opening crawl in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and put it up alongside the source code for all to see. You’re nerd of the week, Tim.

One Second on the Internet

I’m reminded of this, from Douglas Adam’s The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

“The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.

To explain — since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation — every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula — for that was his name — was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex — just to show her.

And into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.”

(Be sure to click on to see how many emails are sent every second.)

H&M Finally Opens US Web Store

Dante D’Orazio:

H&M’s solution to the online shopping puzzle is pretty simple. The company is charging a flat $5.95 shipping fee, no matter how many items you order, and you’ll have 30 days to return items. Customers have to pay a $5.95 flat shipping fee for a prepaid return label, and there’s no option to bring items into local stores for exchange or credit.

I like that, it’s straightforward. And I like H&M. I hate shopping for clothes, but I can stomach walking into an H&M. I can stomach even more going to their website, so win-win.

Bad Movie Reviewers

There’s only one important question when your friend tell’s you she’s seen a movie you haven’t: is it worth seeing. Bad Movie Reviewers, a new blog from your host and his good friend, Jesse DeWeerth, answers that most important question.

It’s the simplest movie review site you’ll ever find, with each entry comprised of just the title, its year of release, and a rating of 0-5 stars. Good movies. Bad movies. Old movies. New movies. You’re sure to find a suggestion new to you whenever you check in.

(Be sure to check out the ratings explanations at the bottom of the page.)

Hundreds of Browser Tabs

Ben Brooks:

I’ve never understood the ‘100’s of tabs open’ crowd — what’s the point? If the browser crashes your screwed, and even if it doesn’t crash there is a clear hit on your computing performance. That’s what services like and Instapaper were made to handle — it’s easy enough to shove those links over to those services, so why not do that?

I get nervous when I have more than four tabs open. (Remember the days before tabs, god that sucked.)

The Dropbox Opportunity

Ben Thompson:

Dropbox and other services are a threat to Apple in that they ultimately devalue hardware and minimize switching costs; this is exactly why Apple won’t buy Dropbox (except to kill it), and will never build a fully comparable product.

Netflix Ditches Silverlight for HTML5 in IE11

Emil Protalinksi for TheNextWeb:

Netflix today announced that it has finally taken the first step towards ditching Silverlight for HTML5, largely thanks to Microsoft, no less. The company has been working closely with the Internet Explorer team to implement its proposed “Premium Video Extensions” in IE11 on Windows 8.1, meaning if you install the operating system preview released today, you can watch Netflix content using HTML5 right now.

HTML5 video is definitely the right way forward for Netflix, but it worries me that these “Premium Video Extensions” are being pushed by Netflix and not a standards body.

DRM in HTML5 Is a Victory for the Open Web

Peter Bright for Ars Technica:

As a practical matter, it’s unlikely that the petition could ever be meaningful. Even if W3C decided to drop EME, there are enough important companies working on the spec—including Netflix, Google, and Microsoft—that a common platform will be built. The only difference is whether it happens under the W3C umbrella or merely as a de facto standard assembled by all the interested parties. Keeping it out of W3C might have been a moral victory, but its practical implications would sit between slim and none. It doesn’t matter if browsers implement “W3C EME” or “non-W3C EME” if the technology and its capabilities are identical.

Flash and Silverlight are going away. DRM is here to stay. We either embrace DRM within our open standards or we truck along with outdated plugins.

W3C Drops ‘hgroup’ Element from HTML5 Spec

I missed this a couple weeks ago when it was announced, and unfortunately this site has been using <hgroup> to display the title, slogan, and author since the redesign. Within the past couple days, the W3C validator began checking against the use of <hgroup>, which is actually how I noticed it. A validation error would not stand on Defomicron, so for now I have changed <hgroup> to a generic <div>.

I don’t like using <div>’s, preferring to use syntactically-significant, descriptive elements (such as <header> and <footer>) instead. It’d be nice if we had an HTML5 element clearly meant for the web page’s title and author information.

Netflix Saying ‘Goodnight, Silverlight’

Simon Thomas, on Netflix’s post about their potential move to HTML5:

Do they really believe DRM, any DRM, is effective at anything other than annoying genuine users? Additionally, is there anything on Netflix’s catalogue that can’t be obtained elsewhere on the internet without DRM?

I bet Netflix feels exactly the same way, Simon. But in order for great content to keep pumping through Netflix’s servers and onto our screens, they have to ceed to the demands of the networks. And that means DRM.

Material Honesty on the Web

Kevin Goldman:

The palette of emotional design for flatlanders is instead temporal. Temporal beauty lives in state-change animations, nuanced timing effects, strategically placed user feedback, and other “interesting moments,” not drop shadows and Photoshop layer effects. Flatlanders build all kinds of emotion and depth combining these moments with delightful microcopy, personality, and typography. All honest—all web—all good.

With the redesigned Defomicron I launched early this year, I focused on the reading experience. I tried my very hardest to focus on good, clean typography and cutting out the unnecessary. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, and it keeps getting better. Granted, my focus might change if this site ever brought in revenue, but right now I want Defomicron to be accessible in as many mediums as well as can be done.

That’s why Defomicron has an RSS feed, a Twitter feed, and an feed. Today, I’m happy to announce I’ve added a Tumblr feed to the mix. For those of you that swing that way, you can head over there and follow along with all the latest and greatest.

Have You Clicked Here? You Will

Brian Morrissey for Digiday:

Measuring how many ads were shown was a manual process. John Nardone, who joined Modem to lead its media department at the time, recalls getting log files from publishers in order to count the “hits” an ad got. Log files included hits for each piece of the page’s content; that meant combing through for the .jpg file associated with the ad. The first Web analytics tool was a highlighter pen.


More URL stuff for you tonight:

  • Linkrot equals lost business: make sure all URLs live forever and continue to point to relevant pages.
  • Do not move pages around but keep them at the same URL: it is very annoying for authors of other sites when their links either stop working or turn into pointers to something different because the original page has been moved and replaced by something new. There can be reasons to reserve a special URL for the current edition of a column or other special content, but the article should be stored at a permanent URL from the start and this URL should be listed on the page that is accessed through the temporary or varying URL.

That’s from Jakob Nielson, in 1999. Things haven’t changed much in the URL world. Without a doubt, the above is the most frustrating; as an operator of a link blog, I fear for the longevity of many of my links.

URL’s Are for People, Not (Just) Computers

Andreas Bonini, writing about URL’s:

They should be clean, understandable, semantic, hierarchical and not excessively long.

Amen to that. I’ve always used descriptive URL’s on Defomicron. After reading this article, however, I realized I was sorely lacking in one area:

URLs must have meaning and be hierarchical. Search engines just love semantic URLs and it’s also a usability matter: URLs can serve as a navigational aid, sort of secondary breadcrumbs.

Let’s take the amazon page selling the mirra chair as an example. The URL seems written by someone rolling their head on the keyboard: Now compare that with

Not only does the latter look good but it also communicates you are in the Furniture > Desk Chairs category. There is also an added bonus: it’s just begging to be hacked. It’s intuitive you can go to the list of all furniture just by removing parts of it,

After reading that, I realized I needed to fix it right away. And right now, I’m pleased to announce, if you go to or or anything along those lines, you’ll get a list of posts from that period of time.

A Short Translation from Bullshit to English of Selected Portions of the Google Chrome Blink Developer FAQ

Rob Isaac kindly translated Google’s PR speak into English:

What should we expect to see from Chrome and Blink in the next 12 months? What about the long term?

We have a direct strategic interest in destroying Apple’s mobile platforms because their lack of participation in our advertising and social ecosystems does not benefit our long term goals. You should expect Chrome and Blink changes in the short term to be focused in this direction.

In the longer term, we aim to have sufficient control over the installed base of web browsers to dictate whatever conditions we consider most appropriate to our business goals at the time.

I can’t get over the feeling that this is going to be bad for the web.

Mozilla and Samsung Collaborating on Next Generation Web Browser Engine

More web engine news for you today:

Servo is an attempt to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way. This means addressing the causes of security vulnerabilities while designing a platform that can fully utilize the performance of tomorrow’s massively parallel hardware to enable new and richer experiences on the Web. To those ends, Servo is written in Rust, a new, safe systems language developed by Mozilla along with a growing community of enthusiasts.

That, to me, sounds a lot more exciting than Google’s fork of WebKit. For one thing, Servo will not immediately replace Gecko. That’s important, because if Mozilla rushed it into Firefox and it was a dud, web developers would be forced to support it due to the browser’s popularity. More importantly, this is a completely new technology. With Google’s fork, the Chromium team will no longer reap the benefits of the WebKit team’s continued development. Likewise, the WebKit team will not be able to utilize any of Google’s improvements.

Servo could be the start of a new era in web rendering, but it will only get there if it’s good. If it is and it ushers away WebKit, then that’s great. If it isn’t, then we still have WebKit.

Google Forks WebKit

Adam Barth, a software engineer at Google, on the Chromium Blog:

This was not an easy decision. We know that the introduction of a new rendering engine can have significant implications for the web. Nevertheless, we believe that having multiple rendering engines—similar to having multiple browsers—will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.

Didn’t John Siracusa just explain why the WebKit Planet is a good thing?

UPDATE: As Guy English reminds us, The Doctor has already chimed in on Google’s new rendering engine.

IE11 Masquerading as Firefox

Max Slater-Robbins with an interesting observation of the Internet Explorer 11 beta:

Microsoft have replaced the “MSIE” string, which identifies the browser to the website as Internet Explorer, with just “IE,” meaning host websites won’t be able to use their current CSS hacks on IE11. To further insure IE11 users don’t receive an odd version of the site, Microsoft also included the command “Like Gecko” which instructs the website to send back the same version of the website as they would to Firefox. The results of this update are unknown, especially on websites which are poorly coded. The move is strange, but shows that Microsoft is desperate to clean up Internet Explorer and get away from the awful experience in IE6, 7 and 8.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft will ship IE11 with this, but I hope they do. It will be good for their users and really, good for the web. We’ve moved past hacking sites to display correctly in standards-averse browsers. Ideally, user-agent-strings would be totally useless to the web programmer. If a site is written to the HTML5/CSS3 specification, it should render correctly everywhere. With this site, I’ve held to that. Defomicron is standards-complient, and if your browser is, too, it will look just fine.

Bringing iPhone Safari Up to Speed

Brent Caswell has some pretty smart ideas for sprucing up the neglected Mobile Safari experience on the iPhone. I particularly like shared bookmark streams.

Fear of a WebKit Planet

John Siracusa, on the growing dominance of WebKit:

I haven’t forgotten the past. A single, crappy web browser coming to dominate the market would be just as terrible today as it was in the dark days of IE6. But WebKit is not a browser. Like Linux, it’s an enabling technology. Like Linux, it’s free, open-source, and therefore beyond the control of any single entity.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind that anyone saw WebKit dominance as a bad thing until I read this. I agree with John 100%.

Stuck Between the Dropbox That Was and the iCloud That Isn’t Yet

Rene Ritchie:

But here’s the thing — for all Dropbox’s automagical-ness, it’s a relic of the past. It’s a file system. It’s a hierarchy. It’s a folder sync. It’s a bunch of encrypted data stored on Amazon’s S3 network.

As much as iCloud is the right thing still not realized, Dropbox is the wrong thing done brilliantly well. And at the end of the day, that still amounts to the wrong thing.

I, like probably most of you, use Dropbox and iCloud. I completely agree with Rene’s point here. While I think iCloud is a fantastic concept and certainly a way forward, it just isn’t executing on all cylinders yet.

eWorld: Apple’s Dream of the 90’s

Linus Edwards wrote a nice summary of Apple’s eWorld:

The strangest thing about internet services in the 90’s was you paid by the amount of time you spent online. There were no unlimited services, it was all based on an hourly rate. eWorld cost $8.95 a month, which seems like a fair price, until you realize that what you got for that was only two free night-time or weekend hours. Yes, you read that correctly, your monthly fee only included two hours a month, and not even any hours during the weekday. If you wanted to use it more than two hours a month you had to pay $4.95 per hour for night or weekend hours, and $7.95 an hour for weekday hours.

Suddenly $100/month for an iPhone plan doesn’t seem so bad. Estimating conservatively puts me at $683.95/month.

Idealism vs. Pragmatism

In short: Mozilla is giving in and is going to support H.264. There’s a reason I stopped using Firefox several years ago.

Cookies and Privacy

John Gruber:

But I’m thinking that if you took a thousand random iOS and Mac users, sat them down and explained to them in layman’s terms what browser cookies are and how Google uses them to track their behavior across the web, and then conducted a survey among them as to what Safari’s default cookie privacy setting should be, we’d find out that Apple chose well to break with tradition here.

Don’t be evil.

Google Didn’t “Track” iPhones, but It Did Bypass Safari’s Security Settings

Danny Sullivan summarizes the scandal of the past week regarding Google’s tracking cookies. Turns out the Journal sensationalized the story a bit, but Google was still bypassing the security settings of Safari. Don’t be evil.

Google Tricked Safari, Tracked Users

Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries:

Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.

Google removed the tracking code after being called on it by the Wall Street Journal, but who knows what else is lurking. Is anyone surprised? “Don’t be evil” was long ago replaced with “OK, let’s be evil”.