Recently, Gawker sites (Gizmodo, Kotaku, etc) have been broken and broken some more. Most recently in the last few days when the sites got the dreaded Ajax overhaul. I’ve been coming to these sites less and less due to them putting out increasingly irrelevant stuff, but the new design really kills any remaining lingering desire I have visit the sites. First, they started producing somewhat yawn-inducing content. Then they leaked passwords. Then they made sure no one can read the site.

This rage has been bubbling for a long time, and I have to get out with it. Don’t keep adding useless JavaScript crap on the sites, dammit. There are legitimate reasons to use JavaScript… and then there are not. If your entire site is built around JavaScript and the first thing I see is a blank page and a NoScript bar that says I got scripts blocked from about billion sources, I’m not a happy guy. Isn’t it already annoying enough that I have to make zillion decisions about this stuff? Why do all of the sites have to be spread across foo.com, foo-images.com and foocdn.com? (Did your boss order you to use a “cdn” domain name because content distribution networks are so Web 2.0?)

But before this, Kotaku was at least readable without JavaScript. At one point, I had to block Flash because they used Flash for headline fonts, and that was just pointless. (Stupid solution for a temporary problem - major browsers support WOFF nowadays.) I used to browse Kotaku JS disabled because it only affected comments. Now, because everything comes through a JavaScript user interface, I can’t get articles either.

And now, the site just reminds me of the good ol’ days of… Web, around 1998 or so. Yes, by introducing modern stuff in the site, they’ve completely undermined all of the progress so far.

Let’s have a brief recap of the history since those days. In my opinion, one of the greatest thing that happened in early 2000s was the open-sourcing of Mozilla codebase. If you have never used Netscape 4.x, do yourself a favour and never even try - it was horrible, it was limited, and it didn’t support all of the new neat web standards - it barely comprehended some not-so-controversial parts of CSS 1. And then the Mozilla project was formed. Milestone after milestone, the Mozilla browser first surpassed Netscape in stability, and version after version, it got better and better at comprehending web technologies.

In layman speak: Build a website using dog-old technologies, and the chances are that modern descendants of Mozilla technologies - Firefox, etc - will render them blazing fast. Old tech is something you can trust. New versions of Firefox will never mess those up, because we all depend on solid handling of basic web building blocks like HTML and CSS.

The thing is, the situation with JavaScript has improved. But there’s still echoes of the past here: It works like all other “not so solid” technologies of early 2000s.

Reddit commenters pointed out that sidebars took 1.5 minutes to load. A fun fact: in early 2000s, web designers were contantly, constantly being asked to design their pages so that they could load in seconds - because people really don’t have that long an attention span what comes to page load times. Nielsen has commented about it in a bit more modern ways.

We have broadband now. But the Ajax crap makes pages load stunningly slow, and the end result is that you get a web page that’s… basically a web page. I can understand if people want to improve the JavaScript stuff and use it for applications, but news sites aren’t applications. Yes, it’s nice that Firefox 4 will have a “screaming fast” JavaScript engine. Hint: We already have a “screaming fast” web layout engine (again, if you have never seen Netscape 4, count yourself lucky) that can process HTML and CSS really fast. The idea of news sites is to give us news, and we have perfectly working and efficient declarative approach for displaying news, in form of HTML and CSS. You don’t need JavaScript for news. You don’t need new badly working junk to replace the old stuff that worked just fine.

In short: I’ve always liked new things, but sometimes, especially in the tech, the new things just come in to make sure the things stay the same. We get faster page rendering speed, and all benefits get undone by people who keep adding more processor-eating junk to the web pages. I have been programming and using computers long enough to know that computers will always be too slow. By all means, produce underwhelming stuff - it runs faster and gets the job done.

And oh boy oh boy, don’t get me started on the usability side of the new Gawker sites, and the quaint new URL style

(Strange coincidence of the day: When I typed this entry's tags, I pressed backspace in the Movable Type's JavaScript-enhanced tag entry box to get rid of unnecessary commas. Due to its JavaScript-addled brain, poor Firefox couldn't tell it was on tag entry box and interpreted that as a request to go back one page. This is what JavaScript does to you. It confuses foxes. Quit doing that shit. Confused wolves are cute though.)