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I'm so sick of websites websites refusing to even display text and images if I don't agree to run their proprietary Javascript on my computer. Isn't it time that browsers started treating requests to run Javascript like requests to use the mic or camera, and asked the user before allowing them? Ideally with crowdsourced info about what the scripts are, and what they do? In other words, make something like a standard part of browsers.

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@strypey Be careful what you ask for: that would kill the peer web before it started. JavaScript on the client isn’t the enemy. Business logic on the server is the enemy.

@aral that's a fine distinction. As a developer, you're in a better position than I am to know. But you'll need to convince me. Because it seems to me that outsourcing processing work to the user's PC - via JS black boxes - is exactly how achieves massive scale, while claiming that to centralized server infrastructure. A myth they've propagated so effectively that even many developers have started believing it:


JavaScript isn't a black box, though. You can inspect all the code that's running in your browser.

Some JS is obfuscated, but it can be easily de-obfuscated. All browser-side JavaScript is effectively open source, even if it's not licensed as such.

If your concern is about privacy, it's not the JS running in your browser that should concern you. It's the data sent from the JavaScript to the server.

It would be reasonably simple to disable AJAX, thus preventing data to be sent to/received from the server, but allow all other JavaScript, allowing interactivity to still work.


@danjones fair points. But privacy is only a subset of a much larger concern, which is about *control*. Putting aside the argument we could have over the "black box" part of my post, the fact remains that:

> outsourcing processing work to the user's PC - via JS - is exactly how achieves massive scale, while claiming that to centralized server infrastructure.

@danjones There are many possible strategies for redecentralizing, and resolving the *many* problems with JS, some of which are described here:

I agree with @alcinnz that moving interactive functions back into native apps, leaving the web as a platform for static pages that don't require (or use) JS, is a strategy worth exploring.

@strypey @danjones @alcinnz Maybe the FSF should worry more about its logo appearing next to Google’s as they sponsor the same events than some ridiculous and ill-informed stance against a programming language that spreads FUD about potential alternatives. Remember that an AGPLv3 licensed app specifically built for drones to send hellfire missiles to little children would get the FSF seal of approval. Free Software is just a component of ethical tech but doesn’t care about ethics of use cases.

@aral I share your concerns about open source events being sponsored by Google, as do FSF, but they can't control this. As for approving of child-killing drone software, that's FUD worthy of Microsoft. FSF have often spoken out about the use of freely-licensed code to do much less anti-social things than that:

Perhaps you could respond to the concerns laid out in 'The Javascript Trap' with some substance, rather than resorting to whattaboutism?
@danjones @alcinnz


@aral as for the claim that the FSF's criticisms of Javascript are a ...
> ridiculous and ill-informed stance against a programming language

I note that they're far from alone in seeing JS as a problem. Plenty of experienced engineers have serious problems with it too. A quick selection off the top of my head:
* soc.freedombone.net/objects/20
* hackernoon.com/the-javascript-
* onpon4.github.io/articles/kill
@danjones @alcinnz

@aral I'm aware of the holy wars that constantly rage for and against programming languages. But AFAIK JS is the only one that results in code being downloaded and run on the users computer on-the-fly. As onPon's article points out, that makes proprietary JS code effectively impossible to replace at the user end with free code. These are not trivial issues, and implying that they are suggests a failure to understand the scope of the problem.
@danjones @alcinnz

@strypey @danjones @alcinnz Right and what happens exactly when you have automatic updates on and a native app gets updated? Now what happens when you’ve allowed say Apple to use bitcode? Instead of vilifying JS when some of us are trying to build systems using it, let’s understand that the real issue is business logic on the server, proprietary/closed source code, and lack of reproducible builds. Spreading FUD about in-browser JS could jeopardise what I’m working on with ar.al/2019/02/13/on-the-genera

> the real issue is business logic on the server, proprietary/closed source code, and lack of reproducible builds.

Sure, these are all problems, and I get that JS isn't the only vector for them. But the way it's deployed makes it particularly vulnerable.You've left out the major architectural weaknesses of JS (eg the security audit nightmare created by dependance on hundreds of third-party modules). As for Apple, the FSF criticize their practices harshly elsewhere, as I'm sure you know.

> could jeopardise what I’m working on

This is neither here nor there, but it does suggest you're getting too emotionally close to the issues to be totally objective in your analysis. For the discussion to continue productively, it's probably best to look at it from 50,000 ft, and purely from a user POV, pretending for the sake of argument that you have no skin in the game as a technology creator.

@strypey You bet I’m emotionally invested in it – I’m not sitting in an ivory tower perpetuating some bs notion of neutrality in the matter while enjoying my tenure. I’m building what I’m building because I care about the issues not the other way around :) (And I’d further argue that objectivity is impossible for any being with self interests – even base ones like a need for food or shelter. The best we can be is transparent about our biases and subjectivity.)

@aral make no mistake, I believe you really do care about protecting users from surveillance capitalism, as I do, which is why I regularly signal boost your stuff. All I'm saying is that folks who really like their hammers have a tendency to start seeing every problem as a nail. It's important not to let a sunk cost fallacy prevent you from considering other options that might also work, and corner you into interpreting any suggestion along those lines as a demand to ban hammers ;)

@aral @strypey

> objectivity is impossible

True but only because we are limited by our physical nature.

> for any being with self interests

Yet some people act independently of their self-interests.

I'm one, so I know they exist.

I'm not particularly good or wise, I'm just curious.

@aral, just like @strypey
I appreciate your work, but I agree that you are scared by something that isn't going to affect your work.
Let's assume that one days #JavaScript and #WASM execution becomes opt-in in #Web #browsers, your application is not a web browser, so nothing would change.

This is not #FUD, but a real attack from the #Russian gov (mostly) to their citizens: bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.

#JS enabled this #surveillance, and if it was #Google doing the same we would have never known it.

@strypey @danjones @alcinnz Right, and as an experienced engineer (if 35 years of experience in programming counts for anything) who cares deeply about this problem, I’m telling you that a client-side-only JavaScript-based approach is essential to building a bridge from surveillance capitalism to a peerocracy. If you haven’t, please read what I wrote here, where I explain why JS in browser – if not linked to business logic on the server – is not the enemy: ar.al/2019/02/13/on-the-genera

@aral I finished reading this article today, after starting it yesterday, and reposting it so anyone following my account on the birdsite gets it, as well as those on the fediverse. It's a good overview. I didn't say JS is the enemy, I argued that it ought to be opt-in, so that:
a) users can protect themselves from the harms it is already known to do
b) web designers are incentivized to use it only when it's really needed, not use it to add trackers etc to what ought to be static pages

@aral if JS was opt-in, people would opt-in when that made sense in their use case, or use a native app when that made sense. Much less bad JS would be written because it can't be slid in under the door and run in someone's browser without their informed consent. It would be good for users, good for native apps, and good for JS.

@aral @strypey @danjones I thought we agreed the other day that these concerns are orthogonal. I'm not against your webapps, but auto-executing JS is a valid concern.

If you're afraid of lack of JS hurting you, I encourage you to write good <noscript> messages promoting the native apps.

P.S. As you should well know from Better there's plenty of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to be had around what JS is doing.

P.P.S. I have read your blogpost.

@strypey Hmm, I couldn't read @bob's comment about how much trouble JavaScript has caused him until I allowed the Pleroma instance there to run JavaScript 😆 😭

@jamey case in point. Even a logged out user with JS turned off ought to be able to see text, images, and some level of layout sanity, using pure HTML/CSS. Maybe file that as a bug on the Pleroma issue tracker? Same with any other fediverse platform that doesn't have a sane fallback for non-JS visitors.

@strypey It is a known bug and there is a minimal static(should be renamed noscript) frontend.
But if you want domething full-fledged brutaldon is officially supported.

@strypey @aral @danjones @alcinnz I've been programming for 30 years and I think javascript is very bad. let's not forget it killed off better alternatives at the behest of Google, who embrace it because it powers their surveillance. you can't deploy javascript without tacitly approving of Google's (and other surveillance capitalists') use of it imo.

> let's not forget it killed off better alternatives at the behest of Google

To what alternatives are you referring?

IIRC, when JavaScript was gaining steam, the closest thing to a serious contender was VBScript, which only worked in IE.

Also, Google didn't exist yet.

@strypey @aral @alcinnz

@danjones @strypey @aral @alcinnz Google's existed since 1996. at that time you could run Tk/Tcl scripts in Netscape navigator,with a plugin. you could run perl scripts too, which was big at the time because perl/CGI was the main way to make a web site dynamic back then. Java applets, which made an effort to be secure, were also starting to appear


None of those alternatives worked without a browser plugin, unlike JavaScript.

Because of that limitation, I wouldn't consider them as serious contenders.

And Java applets were an awful user experience.

And Google certainly didn't have the clout to kill any of those off at the time.

@strypey @aral @alcinnz

> None of those alternatives worked without a browser plugin, unlike JavaScript.

Sure, but that's only because there was no standard saying the dominant browser vendors ought to implement them in the browser, and no consensus among them on de-facto standards. Javascript is fine for prototyping, but before anything gets mainstream use, it ought to be standardized and put into all the browsers, not sent down the pipe indefinitely. It's amateurish.
@walruslifestyle @aral @alcinnz

@strypey @danjones @aral @alcinnz agree, and it's also dangerous because all it takes is a monopoly or duopoly among browser makers for the entire industry to consolidate around a technology that benefits their business interests. instead of having a healthy ecosystem of alternatives so that developer's can choose what works best for them

@walruslifestyle @strypey @aral @danjones Just curious. What are you considering to be the better alternatives it killed off?

@alcinnz @strypey @aral @danjones minimally, code execution in the browser should be managed by an open plugin architecture that can be security audited and user controlled. that was starting to come into being when I was into web development 20-ish years ago, but died and was replaced with the javascript-as-ubiquitous-target state we're in today

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