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Author Topic: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"  (Read 1065 times)

Offline PDP-8

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Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« on: October 18, 2021, 06:45:06 PM »
A recent discussion about the state of browsers who have basically turned into 90% javascript programs vs 10% html markup has me wondering...

Much of this was caused by me getting pissed off that the current state of affairs of an independent browser developer has to just throw in the towel, because trying to accomodate all the underlying javascript moving goalposts to match the corporate-funded ones was just too much.  (Re the TenFourFox dev who I'm surprised hung in there this long!)

How about an "Anti-Browser" ?

That is, a browser which DOESNT use javascript, and any attempt by the site to use it, or detect other probing of your system simply throws up a banner, rather than rendering it poorly:

SITE NOT SUPPORTED

The user is now free to use another browser of course.  But with this one, instead of working poorly with it, will simply refuse and be a warning to the user that the site is trying to use javascript, peek or probe at the user.

Essentially, browsers *were* usable in the past.  And simple HTML4/5 markup was a pleasure to read.  It can be done well and not look like something from 1995 using a million netscape flash-tags. :)

Belly-aching about the current state of affairs is not going to change anything.  And the desire here isn't to change the world either.

But, for some of us, perhaps we will want to support sites that aren't abominations of javascript or other forms of remote programming, and simply present decent html markup pages to us.  Those sites with a profit motive by having us simply visit it will be disappointed of course.

Kind of working the problem backwards.  Instead of corporate funded browsers and site creators dictating what the web should be, a return to what a browser *used* to be can be helpful.

I'm not a luddite or crusader.  I'm just wondering if any site-creators would be willing to create sites that work with our "Anti-Browser", which relies mainly on solid HTML to get the message across.  Perhaps even throw up banners identifying attempts to use javascript or any other probing of the end-user and just stop.

Again, we can always switch to another browser.  Maybe it would be just a browser for us OG's that remember the promise that HTML once had and prefer to visit and support those sites that have the same mindset unless forced to use something else.
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Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2021, 09:18:04 PM »
Sorry about that rant.  Disregard as even that's too "bloggy" for my own taste.
Feel free to delete at earliest opportunity.
That's a UNIX book! - cool  -- Garth

Offline mocore

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2021, 11:50:38 PM »
Sorry about that rant. 

well i read it!.. , never hear of TenFourFox before intresting
 .. genraly `i get` being 
Quote
pissed off that the current state of affairs
wrt
Quote
all the underlying javascript moving goalposts to match the corporate-funded ones was just too much.

btw
 ..(wrt browsers) have you heard of next Nyxt browser !

also ---> https://wayforward.archive.org/ <--- this ??!!

Quote
How about an "Anti-Browser" ?

did you try lynx ?

wrt : sitenotsuported afaik that's what <noscript>...</noscript> tag is for



Offline nick65go

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2021, 02:45:37 AM »
@mocore: thanks for the wayforward link! It rises mixed feelings (happiness, sadness) about so many hard-work hours involved and humanity intelligence. Oh well ... "sic transit gloria mundi".

Offline hiro

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2021, 08:27:07 AM »
it sounds like somebody didn't upgrade their government-issued chromium dose in time.
quick, before you develop worse side-effects, press that button now.

consumers like to be spoon-fed. if you don't like the force-feeding, you have to stop consuming. but it sadly won't prevent others from creating services in a doomed ecosystem.

for crucial services most of the time, you can pretend to be unable to use a webbrowser, then you often get a special service and somebody will use a computer for you, possibly print something out instead (maybe bec. you're too old or blind).
i just hope they won't make a law so that it becomes crucial to own a smartphone, with a specific minimum firmware version, and a government-approved chromium bootloader.

there were much nicer ideas how the web could have looked like... https://www.notion.so/blog/ted-nelson

Offline GNUser

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2021, 10:12:15 AM »
PDP-8, I use anti-browser (Lagrange) and anti-web (Gemini space) sometimes. You should check out Project Gemini. A lot of folks feel like you do.

https://gemini.circumlunar.space/
https://gemini.circumlunar.space/docs/faq.gmi
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_(protocol)

The Lagrange web geminispace browser is in the x86_64 repository.

P.S. 95% of Lagrange's size consists of the built-in font files in resources.lgr. The Lagrange binary itself (the actual geminispace client) is 848 kB. If a GUI client offends your minimalistic sensibilities, there are tiny CLI and TUI clients out there.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2021, 10:24:48 AM by GNUser »

Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2021, 04:24:27 PM »
Interesting stuff - I'll have to take a look at it.

What the TenFourFox developer revealed was eye-opening (but not surprising).

http://tenfourfox.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-end-of-tenfourfox-and-what-ive.html

The problem goes beyond just trying to reach feature parity - each browser's own "javascript minifiers" are so obfuscated that they might as well be binary blobs.

Which is important since most major pages today are 90% javascript and maybe 10% content which end up relying on the custom minifiers to display properly because the site creators use those features, and without a well-funded development team, there is no hope for an individual developer to keep up.  Where 90% of his time is dealing with the majors flinging obfuscated code at each other.

And for what?  That is the question.  Market dominance.  Web dominance.

Ie, the browser IS the O/S, more concerned with remote page-display programs driven by javascript, and now with the reliance on obfuscated javascript-minifiers, they can easily tout being "open source", but in reality are just masquerading as such.

We've been down this road before.  A very loose analogy would be when RMS was trying to keep up with feature-parity with the lisp-machines fiasco.  And finally, the finger was flipped and gnu took shape.  It's important history kids, and those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.  And this is looong before Torvalds.

At any rate - my thought for dealing with this was rather than using a bunch of browser work-arounds, perhaps developers could attack this problem with a coordinated effort:

Any site detected using invasive *anything* like cookies, 3rd-party connections, obfuscated javascript (or perhaps even attempts to use javacript at all) the whole gamut of junk we use plug-ins for today to avoid, instead informs the user that the SITE IS UNSUPPORTED, perhaps with an educational banner about what it is trying to do, and purposely fail to try and render the page at all!

The end-user can of course use a major browser if they wish.  But instead of hiding all this invasiveness, obfuscation and so forth, the "Anti-Browser" becomes an informative tool that perhaps the end-user might not wish to visit certain sites in the future even with a major browser!

Just a thought.  Won't change the world.  But instead of the majors playing fast and loose and masquerading at being open source for an open web, we rip off the blinders and expose what they are really after.  Just like the lisp-machines fiasco.


« Last Edit: October 19, 2021, 04:28:27 PM by PDP-8 »
That's a UNIX book! - cool  -- Garth

Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2021, 05:20:03 PM »
Lisp Machine fiasco parallel?  Here is the best info from the horses mouth.

Look at this from a historical context, and leave any personal feeling about RMS out of it.  This happened.  And brought us gnu which fledged into something I'm typing on right now.

http://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.html

There is a lot of historical context about emacs - but move beyond that to the lisp-machine situation at the AI lab, that was such a disappointment that gnu appeared.

(Albeit I remember seeing Gosling emacs being advertised in Datamation or some other computer mag as bundled - binaries were one price.  Source was a LOT more.)  But I digress...

I see the parallel in history here in regards to the major browsers and hope we heed the warning.

OR, maybe TinyCore needs to turn into a Plan-9 project. :)
That's a UNIX book! - cool  -- Garth

Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2021, 03:56:28 PM »
Long story short - I'm slowly moving from Dillo to Netsurf.  JasonW of dCore fame has done a fine job on the out-of-box settings experience with the latest 3.9 tcz.

It works with what it works with, and if I need something bloated to fill in my taxes or whatever, so be it.  I'll use one of those major browsers.

I think for individual developers - don't throw in the towel.  There's no hope trying for feature-parity.  Some of us really appreciate what your code does NOW.

But for what Netsurf DOES work with (namely trying to follow W3C standards, and not those imposed by the big browser makers fighting amongst themselves) it does a great job as a lightweight browser for what is now considered lightweight needs.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2021, 04:22:03 PM by PDP-8 »
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Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2021, 04:56:16 PM »
Oops.  Forgot to give major handclaps to further maintainers like Juanito, neozeed, and jazzbiker.  Kudos.
That's a UNIX book! - cool  -- Garth

Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2021, 02:43:18 PM »
A SOLUTION ALREADY EXISTS!

The FSF answered my prayers long ago with everything I asked for above!

TL;DR - Use a Mozilla browser with the LibreJS extension.

It essentially get to the ROOT of the problem with Javascript.  What was once used for trivial page additions to html, can be exploited to what much of it is today.  It doesn't turn it off, but blocks bad behaving scripts.

Read about it here:
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/javascript-trap.html

Install the extension here, since existing extensions in the Mozilla repos themselves may not be up to date.
https://www.gnu.org/software/librejs/

One of the best things that I love about it is that is actually SHOWS me what and WHY certain scripts are either considered trivial and passed, or non-trivial unlicensed, obfuscated, or calling other languages like Ajax are blocked.

I'm overjoyed.  Basically if a site is unusable with this extension installed, then it is not worth visiting.  AND, I can use a heavyweight like Firefox with it.  Awesome.

Perhaps if that TenFourFox developer adopted this extension and mindset, he and his users could further lengthen the life of their older browsers.  And most importantly, be doing what he loves to do without trying to play an endless trap of feature-parity with a web that has gone insane.

« Last Edit: November 01, 2021, 02:48:57 PM by PDP-8 »
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Offline hiro

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2021, 04:46:08 AM »
sounds like you unever used ublock origin or umatrix before? :D

Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2021, 12:47:48 AM »
I have along with things like noScript - but LibreJs has a different approach and goal other than mere blocking.  I think noscript's author is also working with the team putting out the new dual-named Javascript-Restrictor / JShelter extension.  (depends on whether you are running mozilla or chome based browser)

Most important to me, is that it identifies the actual line in the page code which shows whether the js is trivial pretty-ing up type code, or blocked because it is purposely obfuscated with too many loops and conditionals, unknown licensed js etc etc.  Could help an unwary site builder throwing frameworks together to just "get it to work", without realizing the implications.

Anyway my lineup now is a bit different from years past:  I run three now in order of importance:

LibreJS
Jshelter aka Javascript Restrictor
Privacy Badger  (for those that are allowed, but later behave badly)

And of course the simplicity of the LibreJS interface goes a long way.  Sometimes the other tools are too cumbersome to use or be setup improperly anyway defeating the purpose. :)
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Offline PDP-8

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2021, 03:47:58 PM »
Other main feature:

With LibreJS pointing out the actual line reference to objectionable scripts, you can see for yourself if you click on those links in the librejs window which puts them into a new tab.  Some are pretty horrifying.

Some will be readable.  Some will be totally obfuscated, like have all the line-endings removed.  Or if a programmer, recognize the unnecessary loops and conditionals.  Or unknown code that was picked up off the gutter and put into your computer to execute.

And if you click on some of the rejected ones, Mozilla itself with throw up the security warnings asking you if it's safe to continue!  How about that!

So it is a tool that is more valuable than just selective blocking.  It allows you to see the trivial or treacherous code in real time.  Hopefully for site-creators to fix that problem, rather than us just blocking or avoiding it.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2021, 03:51:16 PM by PDP-8 »
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Offline hiro

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Re: Would anyone use an "anti-browser"
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2021, 04:06:22 PM »
the worst, and the most common problem when you try to avoid evil scripts, is when a website shows zero usable content when you disable the javascripts.

javascript is often used not just to obfuscate code, but also to obfuscate content.

that's why i think 99.9% of all javascript is unneeded and thus evil. readable, or obfuscated code alike. normally i'm there for the content and not the code, and i don't want to run untrusted javascript just to get to some trivial text (rarely some image) content.