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The Moonspeaker:
Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...

Reducing the Commercial Web (2023-08-21)

A snapshot of the main page of the project gemini capsule in gemini space using the amfora browser. A snapshot of the main page of the project gemini capsule in gemini space using the amfora browser.
A snapshot of the main page of the project gemini capsule in gemini space using the amfora browser.

Technically of course, as the introduction to the newish gemini protocol says right in the snapshot illustrating this thoughtpiece, geminispace is not expected to replace the commercial web at all. But there is a reducing element to using it, in the sense of getting away from an increasingly unusable web with its all too many normalized intrusion practices. It's bad enough that the web has been rejigged fully into a platform fundamentally designed for mass surveillance, heedless of the compelling evidence that mass surveillance is not an effective tool for maintaining security at all. Mass surveillance is simply evidence of growing paranoia among those who have managed to engross more of the necessities of life and actively debar others from accessing those necessities. Bad conscience works on people like that, although that unfortunately does not mean it works fast or effectively from a practical perspective for people to depend on it as a corrective mechanism. Besides the obsessive demands for us to load javascript code libraries so that websites can dump propaganda and spyware on us, most webmasters are heinously sloppy with such items as images, sounds and movies, as Maciej Cegłowski skewered so well in his discussions of the "web obesity crisis" before he got lost in politicking in the united states. I have finally figured out the wretched application of svg files such that loading a site that uses them first loads a massive, page filling version, then belatedly stops short and reloads the whole page again to resize the thing into something that makes sense. At one time this rude behaviour seemed limited primarily to "social media" buttons, but since then it has proliferated like pink eye through a busy kindergarten classroom.

For those who have opted to begin maintaining a "capsule" on gemini, there are quite a range of applications that people are trying out. Since the protocol favours text above all else, geminispace has become host of a minor resurgence of ASCII art. More importantly, a number of people have turned to it as a super lightweight mode to blog in, finding it more congenial and less prone to becoming an inaccessible database. From what I have read so far, an important group of geminispace participants have found that git integrates very nicely with their new publishing process. There are already a number of unusual capsules that support comments, providing an intriguing opportunity to observe all over again how things work without the ability to vote on posts are attempt to manipulate perceptions with algorithms. A variety of tech-related blogs have begun maintaining their own capsules, and quite a few capsules include a re-ported rss feed. I am using the gemini browser amfora, feeling for the most part quite satisfied with its barebones qualities (still working out how to move more efficiently among links once there are more than 10 on a page). I have also heard a great deal about another browser called lagrange, which has a graphical user interface rather than running from the command line. The trick for the time being for many of us interested in potentially adding our own contribution to geminispace is sorting out hosting. Since it is not a 500-pound gorilla and deliberately stripped of such capacities as running scripts in order to preserve privacy and security while setting a serious barrier to spam of all kinds, self-hosting is quite feasible.

Feasible, and perhaps unavoidably necessary since the majority of universities and residential internet service providers have removed all support for any minimal web hosting let alone newer lightweight protocols like gemini. The destruction of webhosting for students is particularly egregious at post secondary institutions in my view, because these include the same people who insist that they are desperate that the research done by their students and staff be shared with the world, especially online. Yet they obviously have no serious commitment to this when they mostly expect people to either sign up to use a "free" wordpress account, or else demand that they apply for university server space, then do a form to confirm the site will still be in use each year, while munging the addresses into a difficult to type mess that reveals usernames. Today the latter point is a serious issue, and a better solution would be to connect the subsites to the department or faculty that the research subject matter ties to most closely, with a name that reflects the name of the research project. That would likely go a long way to improved security and a better effort at naming the subsites. The rub there of course is the utterly self-defeating common look and feel demands of most universities, which are as rigid as any government or corporation's and just as self-destructive. That isn't even getting into the fossilized evidence of rounds of "updates" to the sites in the form of multiple, unintegrated navigation systems.

Which leads me to think that actually, if research and academia opted to make an effort to share their results in gemini capsules, they could potentially hedge their bets sensibly. Admittedly it would go against the grain to not obsess over "branding" and imposing scripts o make it look like there are movies and fancy visual transitions, but the low footprint, high security, and opportunity to provide access to results in a focussed manner that respects the intelligence, time, and privacy of the visitor would go a long way to improving accessibility. Pursuing this thought further, it seems to me that the gemini protocol lends itself to porting for interpretation by screen readers and the like. Let alone that such a stripped down protocol could potentially render data usage on a cell phone genuinely affordable again – well, depending on how far the grift goes to set up so-called "5G" while deliberately destroying "3G" – but then again, public wifi is pretty common these days too. In other words, there is a great deal of potential in the gemini protocol, including the potential to ward off the parasitical corporatization that is killing the web and significant parts of the internet beyond it.

Copyright © C. Osborne 2023
Last Modified: Friday, December 01, 2023 20:02:59