Web4 should run on LaTeX.

The World Wide Web is broken: it is dominated by a handful of websites, nearly everything is financed by ads, bloated tech needlessly slows down surfing, NFTs and blockchain are digital cancer, et cetera. Stop it. Just stop it.


Prelude.

I am not an academic nor a technical whizkid; the following ramblings will reflect that. Also, thinking about how money and greed poisons everything, and how society is topsy-turvy, is draining; I didn't want to expend energy into diving deep. However, my extreme disappointment in the current state of the Web does require me to find an outlet, therefore, this spasmodic article.

How it once was.

Content over style.

Websites used to be fast. Needed information? You surfed, clicked once or twice, and there you had plain text information instantly. Just like opening a book at a certain page. No matter your PC's age, it was good enough for the Web. The sometimes questionable, tasteless, or funny looking designs imbued personality. Professional sites were professional, enthusiast sites were explosively enthusiastic. Except for downloading “large” files, surfing the web was fast and felt like a digital adventure—a massive jungle characterized by wildly disparate but thriving plants and organisms.

How it is now.

Social media.

In stark contrast to the former “digital biodiversity”, nearly everyone and everything resorts to bland social media pages; no personality whatsoever, susceptible to the whims of Zuckerberg, Dorsey, or other billionaire douchebags. Similarly, I hate that nearly perfect videos on YouTube are forever tainted, nay, ruined with sponsored messages and empty phrases such as: “like and subscribe”. People need to get financed somehow, but ads are not the sustainable way. However, I can't blame the artists. For instance, the work that Kurzgesagt [] delivers is legendary and absolutely deserves to be seen by anyone. I just find it a sad state of affairs that most artists are reliant on the whims of questionable for-profit companies.

Bloat.

I'm tired of websites forcing the use of apps or accounts by preventing the access to content. I'm tired of the ubiquitous ads and tracking. I'm tired of websites choosing style over speed and content. I'm tired of it all, but I cannot sleep. When I want to configure my Internet provider's settings I do not care one bit how fancy the website looks. I have one bookmarked URL to prevent excessive navigating, yet it takes over ten seconds to completely load all of the modules and redundant animation functionality; see the video below. My goodness, all that fuss just to change something trivial. Simply put everything in plain fucking text.

—Video: example of my Internet provider's customer service website tardiness.

Reddit is another example of a website with terrible practices. Even though it merely thrives on plagiarism and links to other websites, on “older” devices it's performance is unreasonably slow. Up to the point that running a 3D computer game on the very same device performs noticeably better. Also, they are the ones forcing mobile users into using an app by hiding content. Exactly the type of behavior that gets me not to do things.

Games.

“It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I'm all outta gum.” []

Alas, not even games are spared. Lootboxes, pre-orders, pay-to-win microtransactions, the general dumbing down of everything. Just as the Web, games are filled with redundant nonsense. Profit is the bottom line and “gamers” keep falling for it, sustaining the aforementioned practices. What used to be an escape from a money obsessed reality is slowly catching up. Just like Instagram celebrities: all looks and no substance. And no, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder [].

—Video: If Quake was done today, by HansLollo.

Unreal Tournament 99, instagib playing emoticons.

What they want.

To make matters worse, “Web3's” vision is to commodify everything []. Turn every article, every image, every in-game item into a commodity. On behalf of everyone with a soul: fuck you, and fuck me three year ago too. Possession, and thus greed is what's ruining humanity. Let's not let this cancer spread.

“You scumbags. Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet.” —Bill Hicks

—Stand-up comedy fragment: Revelations (1993), Bill Hicks on marketing and advertising [].

How it should be.

Plain text standard.

Plain text as much as possible suffices for most websites; content and speed over style. This especially applies to non-art related websites, such as this one. I mainly want to communicate by text, so I don't need fancy frameworks or be reliant on third parties. A personal touch here and there is fine, as long as it remains lightweight and self-sufficient.

With a LaTeX- or HTML-only approach websites will be aesthetically pleasing by default by virtue of elegance through simplicity. I admit that the title is sort of clickbait because LaTeX has nothing to do with web development, however, the philosophy behind it is perfectly applicable.

So, what is LaTeX?

“LaTeX is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing.”

“LaTeX is not a word processor! Instead, LaTeX encourages authors not to worry too much about the appearance of their documents but to concentrate on getting the right content.” []

And to quote LyX, an excellent document processor that uses LaTeX:

“LyX is for people who want their writing to look great, right out of the box. No more endless tinkering with formatting details, “finger painting” font attributes or futzing around with page boundaries. You just write.” []

This “just write” philosophy* should be incorporated into web development. It is exactly why I leave as much as possible on default. I am reluctant to learn anything beyond HTML and basic CSS because I find it quite frustrating to design with different browsers in mind; same code, different results. Moreover, there tend to be new web technologies every other year, making previous tech outdated. Your “knowledge” eventually becomes obsolete, a waste of time. Instead, web development should be more like learning math: once you learn how to solve a quadratic equation the method is universal and the knowledge remains useful forever. Just as learning LaTeX has been useful since 1984 []!

– – – – – –

* This approach, which comes down to not having to worry about food and shelter, could be applied to everything in society by means of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). I'm confident that most humans would be more virtuous if they weren't pitted against one another for money so much as capitalism has us do now.

Exceptions to the rule.

Take thrashermagazine.com for example. Since skateboarding's predominant medium is video, and because skateboarding is highly intertwined with art, a completely unique website is more than fitting. What I also love about them is that they don't solely rely on YouTube to host their videos, but made everything available on their own website.

Another exemplar is lichess.org. Without a doubt the best and most lightweight chess website, all while refusing to use ads and trackers. Totally worth a lifetime donation. Nothing but prodigious code and philosophy.

How to fix it?

Eat the rich.

—Image: Eat The Rich by Amii James []

All this being said, Reddit should copy Hacker News, Twitter should oust Jack Dorsey, Facebook should die, and billionaires should pay their goddamn taxes so we can implement Universal Basic Income. Doing this will enable actual good people to do actual good and useful work without having to rely on ads, difficult to come by donations, blockchain pyramid Ponzi schemes, or bullshit jobs []. Let us “just write” history.

—Angelino Desmet; 28 November 2021.
Edited: 29 December 2021.

Sources.

  1. Duke Nukem 3D. [Originally from the movie They Live, but I like the Duke version better.]
  2. Alain De Botton: Beauty Is NOT in the Eyes of the Beholder – The School of Life.
  3. Wikipedia: Web3.
  4. Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell.
  5. Bill Hicks: Bill Hicks - Revelations.
  6. The \(\LaTeX\) Project.
  7. LyX – The Document Processor.
  8. Wikipedia: LaTeX.
  9. Vox.com: Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one.
  10. Amii James: Amii Illustrates – Eat The Rich.

Supplementary.

  1. Kev Quirk: The Web Is Fucked.
  2. Jim Nielsen: For the Love of the Web.
    Reddit comment.
  3. Jay Pinho: Web3? I have my DAOts.
  4. Stephen Diehl: Web3 is Bullshit.

Comment.

Reply on Telegram, or read the comments on HackerNews: 29370620.


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