Using the modern web doesn't feel empowering. It feels immensely frustrating.

The web is barely usable without ad-blocking. Pages take an age to load and the content jumps around as more ads download and display. Also the ads are spying on you.

The entire JS ecosystem is dependency hell and sometimes you have to download massive JS files just to view a web page. The JS is probably also spying on you.

Worse still, JS is also probably why the Back button doesn't work properly on so many sites.

It feels like frontend engineers and web designers do their hardest work to make the whole experience of browsing the web completely miserable.

Why can't I open some embedded YouTube videos in full-screen? Why can't I just click Back when I want to go back without breaking the entire page? Why is this video playing by itself when I didn't ask it to?

Who are the people designing these completely terrible experiences? What happened to them? Who hurt them?!

Not to mention GDPR requests for consent, which frequently use dark UI patterns to make it obtusely difficult to opt out of tracking and advertising cookies.

Happy with being tracked? Sure, just click this "Accept" button.

Don't want to be tracked? Here, uncheck these 412 checkboxes by hand listing everywhere we might sell your data to.

... Seriously? Watch as I close this tab and never revisit your site.

Same goes for hiding content under "please don't ad-block" dialogs. Leave. Me. Alone.

@neilalexander You have to be the sites you want to see on the web, or something Gandhi never actually said...

@pizza_pal I'm not a web designer, I generally make it my mission to avoid designing web sites. I would feel more inclined to just go and write specs for an alternative metadata-based web.

@neilalexander Like the Semantic Web? There's a lot of "ethical design" philosophies out there too, like making stuff so blind people can use it with adaptive technology and whatnot, and also not making sites as annoying and confusing as shit...

@pizza_pal The Semantic Web is really a step in the right direction but I don't think it goes far enough. Ultimately a computer can be taught very easily how to render a "news article", "wikipedia page", "weather forecast", "photo album" etc. So why not just send me the *content* and let me view it on my own terms?

And if we can't accept that, then I'd accept a future with XML+XSLT so that a) data is specified, b) it's easy to see the source and c) I can ignore presentational data if I wish.

@thinkMoult @neilalexander Oh, that's cool. I've been looking at a bunch of minimal site formats, frameworks, style guides, etc. I need to put them all in zotero so I remember them. I've been working on this web-based GUI editor for a bibliographic metadata format and all the javascripts and so forth are making me crazy.

@neilalexander my favorite is being in the US and seeing the GDPR notices and then finding out that 90% of them don't allow US users to opt out. that, or they claim to allow opt-outs but actually don't, or if you opt out the page won't work/load at all .....

so much fun

@neilalexander It is pretty hard to find pages without tracking nowadays. They really succeeded in spreading the virus using these share buttons that people volonteer to add to their pages.

@bjonte Indeed. The psychological manipulation is strong with share buttons, and the tracking capabilities endless.

@neilalexander Just got a page today which, when I pressed "Escape" (accidentally – but yes, I sure wanted to escape that) assumed I didn't consent (Yeah! Good guess) and informed me that, in that case, they couldn't show me the content (which I had already read before activating JS to be able to use their menu). WTF. Violates GDPR for the dependency.

Hint: In many cases, I found "Reading Mode" is a good way out.

@IzzyOnDroid @neilalexander oh yes, reading mode also often makes these cookie warnings go away without needing to click "accept" :) however, you still have to load the whole page first, including js, or the browser won't show you the reading mode icon :-/

@daniel_bohrer @neilalexander for that part, there are uBlock Origin and uMatrix. But admittedly, some pages simply don't even show a single letter without you permitting it at least some of that JS crap. Such sites I usually avoid completely.

@daniel_bohrer @neilalexander For me (and that's how I hadle it on my sites) a page must load even if JS is unavailable/blocked. Limited use for additional features is fine, but mustn't be mandatory. All essential information should be accessible without.


@neilalexander Not to mention websites bitching about GDPR so they block you, or geo-bitching (aka geo-blocking) since you are visiting from the wrong country.

@neilalexander All of this is exactly what I'm not doing with What a Great Link (, and I really hope I'm able to make it work so I can be an example for others to follow.

Simple. Web companies don't exist to give you content; they exist to send you ads. Any other idea is merely a delusion.

Sometime we were fooled with the idea of FREE CONTENT, and flew to it like flies to honey. Instead, they caught us in a trap of adverts and cookies and trackers. Before we knew it, power shifted from service providers to advertisers.

WE put them in power. WE sold our souls to them, WE clicked on "agree". It was us who ruined the web.

@rick_777 @neilalexander @grainloom It’s not the user’s fault, and it’s not the developer’s fault. The blame lies with the capitalists.

Maybe... but can you tell me with a straight face that you DON'T have Whatsapp installed in your phone?

@neilalexander @grainloom

@ashfurrow @neilalexander @grainloom
Then again, why pay for a service when we can barely pay the rent. As the other person said, capitalists made the rules we're forced to play.

@grainloom @rick_777 @neilalexander suuuuuuure I guess, but the overlap is a lot smaller than suggested by the "this is developer's fault" argument.

@grainloom @rick_777 @neilalexander I just have a really hard time getting angry at some developer for running `yarn install google-analytics` or whatever, compared to my anger at venture capitalism/private equity/the war industry

Perhaps we should start labeling devs who work for evil companies as "henchmen". I'd use "minions", but those damn yellow cartoon people are adorable :blobcheeky:
@ashfurrow @neilalexander

@neilalexander every point of inquiry you provide in this thread is an excuse for them to attend and fully expense a conference trip and now you know why

@neilalexander When I first went from print to Web design around '94, Rule No. 1 was "no autoplaying media". It was considered rude and intrusive. Rule No. 2 was to design pages to be "lean" and load quickly, and readable on any browser.

Of course, this was before advertisers barged in and started polluting the goddamn place, and we were forced to design for Explorer (spit).

I'm glad I went back to print about 7, 8 years ago.

@flugennock You've hit the nail on the head there - it's all about respect. In the past, the benchmark for a good web designer was that they could make an elegant website that wasn't disrespectful to the user's wishes. The same is certainly not true anymore.

@neilalexander Every Web site I ever designed was done while wearing my "reader hat" - that is, if I were somebody using this site, what would I want it to do and not do? What would I need to see or not see? Am I on 56k dialup or ISDN (this was in the mid/late '90s)? These were my personal benchmarks for true "coolness" in Web design then.

@neilalexander As relieved as I am that we've finally survived the era of The Future Is All-Flash Web Sites, it's still pretty goddamn annoying that so many sites insist that I allow a dozen 3rd-party sites to run their JavaScript on my computer just so I can read a lousy news article.

@neilalexander While I have zero real evidence to go on, I've had a strong suspicion lately that Web designers are consciously going out of their way to make their sites a massive pain in the ass to use.

@neilalexander capitalism hurt them. i can bet like 90% of frontend and web designers don’t want to make these horrible experiences, but have to because an upper executive decided that’s better

under monopolistic capitalism it becomes possible for it to remain profitable while providing a horrible service, because where else are you gonna go? and when that happens, it becomes a race for the most profitable experience, not the best one

@mopthelop @neilalexander
> i can bet like 90% of frontend and web designers don’t want to make these horrible experiences

yo, an n-word JS developer gotta eat

@neilalexander Truthfully we only do it because we like to eat every day (i cant speak for designers tbh). I haven't met a programmer who pitched auto-playing videos as a 'feature'. It's literally always management and the people who reap the most reward from capitalism.

@neilalexander ehhem... I may be one of those developers...

The answer? Client wants it, doesn't want to pay for the experience it actually wants, makes compromises on quality, doesn't allow for maintenance, prioritizes dumb crap, doesn't use data driven decision making, doesn't do user studies, constantly bolts new shit on top without rearchirecting or refactoring, doesn't pay for high quality developers, outsourced to low bid consultant agencies, has terrible product managers

Believe it or not, but a lot of developers these days don't even think these are features worth pursuing.

@neilalexander in fact it is possible to implement javascript handle pressing back button well 😸

However, you are so right! Modern web is bullshit and I write it from modern web application full of react and other things like that - mastodon. Here is an irony - modern web allows us to do very lot of things, which we could not even think about without it


Had a question about what this was all about (Mastodon) and your post 'popped up'. Niiiice :) Added in some detail for me :) Thank you :) If you needed to know I'm a newbie :)

@askans The problem is, as a user, there's not much you can do but use ad-block.

As a developer, the list of ways you can help are almost endless: don't fill your pages with ads, don't add tracking pixels or share buttons, don't use large JS frameworks or anything with lots of dependencies, don't unnecessarily interfere with the state of a webpage or navigation in JS, don't break the Back button for any reason, test it on multiple browsers, don't autoplay videos and just don't be evil.

@askans @neilalexander


Script Safe or related plugins.

Become a software developer and when your boss mentions Google Analytics, ask why it's a good idea to let your competition know what your customers are looking for.

@askans @neilalexander

And... a case study specifically about Google Analytics, and how it costs companies money by requiring them to spend extra in advertising in order to keep customer that they've already attracted...

@neilalexander my favorite is the scroll wheel somehow not registering on some sites for seemingly no reason, even though the fricking scroll bar works fine, I cannot think of any reason this would be but it still happens

@marrub This happens on the new Reddit for me quite frequently. No reason for it at all.

And don't get me started on websites that try to implement their own smooth scrolling in JavaScript. I have a special soapbox for that one.

@neilalexander I guarantee you most JS is spying on you, no place for "probably". spying is a not secret at all #business plan for the most sites we visit and get used by.
#privacy #bigData #cloud #spy

@neilalexander apart from the Back button, simple links are increasingly replaced by JS enabled "link-buttons" that browsers don't understand, can't bookmark, can't put in the history, can't open in a new tab if needed, etc. Scrolling is often broken too (pagination with <space>, going to the top with <home>), being replaced by custom JS enabled solution working half of the time.

@neilalexander I work in a little local radio station on the weekend and the most valuable thing I have ever or will ever do for them is put adblock on all their computers

@neilalexander The back button doesnt work properly on a lot of sites because gluttonous management teams think if you cant go back, you'll just stay with us.

@neilalexander As someone who builds web apps, this is often the case. My blog is just static HTML, because like, why do care if I can use the in-browser loading mechanics? Many pages shoe-horn in JS with little value.

@neilalexander That said, web apps are great, especially for portability -- and after some permissions (which thankfully involve native accept buttons), you can get a good experience everywhere. The web has much more sandboxed permissions too -- native apps can access the filesystem at will, etc. Sometimes I wish I had the same level AdBlock natively (I do use a hosts blocker) knowing how many apps send tracking without the ability to opt out.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Server run by the main developers of the project 🐘 It is not focused on any particular niche interest - everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct!