mirror:world
Title:
Web considered harmful
Authors:
Aoi Koizumi (古泉 あおい)
Date:
Topics:
Smolnet, Web
Id:
7whsm1

Over the past decade, the internet has seen a transition from single-task protocols to the web to the extent that new functionality is often only exposed as a web-API with a proprietary protocol.

While the base protocol (HTTP) and information serialization (HTML, XML, JSON) is standardized, the methods for extracting information from the received data varies from website to website.

The solution in the 1990s was to make a standardized protocol, e.g. IMAP or NNTP, which could be used to access email or news in a standardized manner.

For interacting with, say, google mail, however, a client application will have to speak the google mail API which is incompatible with the mail API of another provider. This transition is turning the internet into a collection of walled gardens with the obvious drawback that most websites -- if an API is present at all -- will only have the official client implementation to said API available. Mostly there will be a few closed-source implementations provided by the vendor, most commonly a combination of the following:

* a website (often with mandatory javascript)

* a mobile website (possibly without javascript, but optimized for small screens and thus not very practical on a desktop browser and often not exposing all available features)

* Android or iPhone app (sometimes not exposing all available features, restricted to a single platform)

leaving users little choice in case they are using a different platform or want to collect their data in a unified format.

Even worse is receiving information from websites where no API exists. There is no standard for logging into websites which have a mandatory username/password login prompt and implementations will have to handle cookies, referer headers (ridiculously many website mandate one for XSRF protection even though the standard makes them optional) and site specific form locations to which POST and GET requests will need to be made in a site specific order.

For the most part, there has been no effort in changing any aspect of this problem, which has existed for more than 10 years. On the contrary, companies have consecutively started to discontinue support for open web standards such as RSS/Atom.

Conclusion: The web as it is now is harmful to the open standard culture of the internet.

=== Original can be found on Usenet at comp.infosystems.gemini, this is merely a repost.