Midnight Pub

Some thoughts about the small web


~bartender I'll have a gin with tonic please!
It surely is evening somewere in the world. He! he!

So with the danger of coming late to the party again,

I was thinking about the consept of the small web, and that Gemini and Gopher, are only a part of it.

There are a lot of places in the "normal web" that are of the minimal aesthetic, and there are tools and ways to discover them.

But what is the small web?

I mean is there a definition that we have come to?

Is there a set of requirements that we have come to agree upon, that a web site can qualify as a small web place?

And if not, shouldn't we?

Is it no cookies? No JavaScript? Is it No tracking and analytics? Maybe all of the above? Maybe mostly text content?

What I mean to say, is that I am wondering, if there should be a small web standart.

Someway for someone to know before following a link that they are not going to be exposed to the noisy "normal web".

Maybe a badge of conformity to the standard, or maybe a code word in the URL that indicates "you are going in a quiet place"

And what would the standard be?

My own take on it, is that it has to satisfy the following:

What do you guys think?

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Hi, ~pandion. It's good that you're thinking through these questions since they are some of the foundational reasons that a small web exists after all.

One thing worth pointing out here is that Gemini exists precisely to satisfy the goals that you laid out here. Via HTTP, there is absolutely no way to know what is on the other side of a web link. You just click it and hope for the best, but the protocol allows the author of that webpage to trigger cascaded downloads, install cookies in your browser, and download untrusted Javascript to run on your computer. There really isn't anything you can do about that except to use a browser without Javascript support, with cookies turned off, and which asks you to confirm each cascaded download. You can use lynx, links, elinks, w3, or eww like that, but typically the browsing experience is almost unusable on most sites. Add on top of that the tremendous amount of CSS styling and "div-itis" used on most sites (not to mention all the React-based sites that are entirely made with Javascript), and there's just no way 99% of the web will render in a text-mode web browser in 2024.

And so this is the reason (as outlined by solderpunk) that Gemini is a separate protocol from the web. Every Gemini link meets these "smallweb" criteria, so you can safely browse around Geminispace all day and never experience any cookies, tracking, Javascript, cascaded downloads, or CSS-styled-into-unreadability pages. And as an improvement over Gopher (which also has these same predictable usability features), you can browse privately and with authentication since all Gemini requests are encrypted via SSL/TLS and client X.509 certificates passed in the TLS handshake provide us a means of persistent authentication, allowing site logins without cookies.

You can certainly make simple, no-frills sites on the web that mimic Gemini-like functionality (minus the client certs), but just remember that whenever you click a link, the rug can (and probably will) be pulled out from under you by whatever is on the other side of it.

Good luck, stay safe, and happy hacking!



Well, it seems to me, you try a "definition"? Why? What do you gain from it? I have a faint feeling that defining this is going to be quite hard.

~bartender? Just coffee, please. Thank you.



I guess I am kind of doing this. I think looking around Gemini inspired me.

You see this feels like a cozy quiet place, and I am wondering If something like this could be reproduced in the web.

Where you can surf around in the small web kind of separated from the noisy commercial web.

On the other hand that's what Gemini and gopher Is here for I guess!

I don't know, maybe I am just thinking aloud!

~bartender the coffee is on me


my take on the small web is it is made by individuals, probably by hand, and with love.

i'd rather it have no ads, no 3rd party stuff, and minimal javascript, but i don't think those things make up the essence of the small web. which is that its human made. its not made by businesses or people with millions to spend, its made by one person who wants to carve out their own space on the internet.



Yes you are right. I managed to miss the most important aspect of the small net.

It Is the one that is the most difficult to codify though.

I wander, if I were to come upon a site that is the product of someones love for artistic expression, that loads up several MB of images and remote styling, and JavaScript pop ups urging me to subscribe, etc would I consider it small web?

And on the other hand, google's first page renders just fine on Lynx, without JavaScript. Would I call that small web?

Maybe there has to be an other category, that expresses the amateuristic non commercial web, and the small web could be considered a subcategory of that.

All that is just semantics I guess.