Web 1.0 is (unironically) going great

Wed 29 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

I resolved never to put a web browser on this machine, which is a Thinkpad X200t from early 2010 with the Libreboot firmware flashed to it, and the wifi card replaced with a FOSS-driver-loving atheros-based card. Ever since I got it in early 2019, it's been my "writing machine," my "kitchen computer," my "at-home daily driver," my "work daily driver" (briefly), and my OS experimentation machine. It has run Manjaro (calm down, BTW bros, I know), PureOS (*eyeroll*), Debian, Devuan, OpenBSD, NetBSD (briefly), FreeBSD, Debian again, and OpenBSD again, in that order. I've used it to try out different distros and OSes, and have generally had a lot of fun with this little machine.

But most recently, I loaded it up with OpenBSD early this month because I (again) wanted to have a dedicated writing machine with a minimum of distractions. A year ago, I quit using OpenBSD on this machine (after a couple months of greatly enjoying it) because the performance was pretty poor, especially when running firefox. I'm not lambasting OpenBSD, it's a fantastic OS, but you wouldn't use a jackhammer to spread butter on toast. I moved to FreeBSD (after briefly trying NetBSD but not being able to get suspend working) and had a great time on that OS learning its personality, and a little about the storage juggernaut that is ZFS.

Thinking about NaNoWriMo recently, I decided that a really nice UNIX that does not run a web browser well was just what the doctor ordered, and therefore I backed everything up and installed OpenBSD on this machine to make it my dedicated writing machine.

Of course, being cognizant of it being a distraction-free machine, I did not load any web browsers on it. The only thing close to that is curl, which I needed for some queries in my scripts (it's a lot faster to query a website than to search for packages through the OpenBSD pkg_info script. It's been getting better, though.)

I'd still ssh into my raspberry pi occasionally to do some web searches with w3m, but that was just inconvenient enough to discourage abuse. I also avoided installing any software with multimedia abilities, and I chose OpenBSD's own cwm as the window manager, which is just about as gloriously minimalistic as you can get.

But what am I doing? Right, lost in exposition and world-building, as usual. Sorry. Let's get on with the story.

I kept my "zero web browsers" rule for a good while, and even did some manual parsing of html from curl (via sed) the few times I really needed answers from the web. But then, i found myself in need of a way to preview my blog, and sshing into my laptop from my phone via ssh port forwarding in Termux to view it was getting kinda tedious, so I figured I needed to install SOMETHING that would let me view a website visually, yet without being a temptation to waste time.

Enter dillo

Dillo is... ancient. I remember using it as a lightweight alternative to early (and buggy/slow) Mozilla builds on Linux over 20 years ago. That's right, pre-Firefox. Despite its age, Dillo is actually somewhat CSS-compliant, but there's no JavaScript, so it's strictly the non-sucky web. And it's just enough browser to view this blog without any issues whatsoever.

Have I mentioned that it's fast? I cannot find a computer slow enough to not open dillo instantaneously.

This brings us to the title of this article. There's a hilarious satire/snark site called Web3 is Going Just Great that chronicles in painful detail the near-constant scams and malarkey of the crypto/nft/web3 hucksters. So, in light of the toxic waste dump of the modern web (Web 2.9?), to say nothing of Web3 scams, I'd like to take a moment to highlight the joys of That Web 1.0 Life.

Choosing to browse Web-1.0-style (either with a limited browser like Dillo or NetSurf, or a command-line browser like lynx/w3m/links/elinks, or just using NoScript on Firefox) is kind of similar to choosing to use the Fediverse as your primary social network: You won't get access to as much "stuff" as if you browsed The Toxic Web, but what does work will be utterly delightful.

Even when using my insanely overpowered 12-core 12th-gen i7 lap warmer at work, there are a lot of times when doing quick technical queries (e.g., "HERE document example bash") that it's much more convenient to just fire off the DuckDuckGo query in w3m using my creatively-named duck script and grab the text and info I need quickly than to wade through all the crap that the toxic web throws at me.

> "Accept our cookies? No? Then jump through these hoops."
> "Are you sure you're human??"
> "Join our mailing list!"

Now, browsing Web 1.0-style is definitely not the pragmatic choice, but like anything else in life, it's a trade-off, and one I gladly make much of the time for just a little bit of sanity.