Alternatives To The Modern Web
Back in February I wrote an article about my problems with the modern web. I was never too happy with that article, to the point of considering re-doing it multiple times. News broke a few months ago that Mozilla is laying off a bunch of employees. I've been seeing a bunch of discussion about it on Mastodon with people discussing the future of the web and Google's strangle hold on it. It is a fact that not only is Google Chrome the most popular browser, but that the vast majority of browsers these days are using Chrome's Blink rendering engine, Google's fork of Webkit. Slowly browser developers have given up on their own rendering engines in favour of Google's: Opera had Presto, Microsoft had Trident in Internet Explorer and then EdgeHTML for Edge but has now rebuilt Edge as a Chrome-based browser. The only widely-used non-Blink browsers left are Firefox which uses Gecko and Safari which as of writing still uses Webkit.
So Google has a massive influence on web standards and it's growing all the time. The web has become a bloated mess, expanded well beyond it's intended purpose that creating or maintaining a secure and compatible engine to run on it has become almost a bigger undertaking than an operating system. We went from an online document viewer to an entire application platform, what happened? Something has clearly gone wrong here.
In light of the current state of the web many people have decided it's time to give up on it and are retreating into alternative protocols, most notibly Gopher and Gemini, to build an alternative space on the internet known as "The Small Internet" or "The Slow Internet". I've taken a keen interest in these protocols in recent months after becoming quite pessimistic over the future of the web myself.
There is a niche but growing community, so there is no shortage of "Gopherholes" or "Gemspaces" to explore. It does make me happy to see that there is a growing alternative space on the internet outside of the web, especially one that is so simple and minimalist. This not only makes it a refreshing alternative to the bloated distraction-driven web but it's also more friendly to lower-end hardware and able to be interacted with a number of ways, be it through the command-line or GUI.
However as frustrated as I am with the state of the web, there is part of me that can't help but think it's a mistake to just give up on the web all-together. After all, it's not all bad, there is an alternative side of the web that exists partially here on Neocities and elsewhere. There is no denying though that Google/Chrome/Blink is fast taking over the web and our only real non-blink browser engine looks to be in danger and it's only going to get harder and harder to keep up the pace of maintaining a browser engine, especially without the kind of resources Google has. Building and maintaining a community-made web browser engine just isn't feisible anymore without a massive amount of collaberation rivaling that of the Linux kernel.
As of writing I don't have a Gopherhole or Gemspace of my own, but I may well look into getting one set up at some point (shame Neocities dosen't allow for this), so watch this space.