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    It boggles my mind that there are more and more websites that just contain text and images, but are completely broken, blank or even outright block you if you disable JavaScript. There can be great value in interactive demos and things like MathJax, but there is no excuse to ever use JavaScript for buttons, menus, text and images which should be done in HTML/CSS as mentioned in the blog post. Additionally, the website should degrade gracefully if JavaScript is missing, e.g. interactive examples revert to images or stop rendering, but the text and images remain in place.

    I wonder how we can combat this “JavaScript for everything” trend. Maybe there should be a website that names and shames offending frameworks and websites (like https://plaintextoffenders.com/ but for bloat), but by now there would probably be more websites that belong on this list than websites that don’t. The web has basically become unbrowsable without JavaScript. Google CAPTCHAs make things even worse. Frankly, I doubt that the situation is even salvageable at this point.

    I feel like we’re witnessing the Adobe Flash story all over again, but this time with HTML5/JS/Browser bloat and with the blessing of the major players like Apple. It’ll be interesting to see how the web evolves in the coming decades.

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      Rendering math on the server/static site build host with KaTeX is much easier than one might have thought: https://soap.coffee/~lthms/cleopatra/soupault.html#org97bbcd3

      Of course this won’t work for interactice demos, but most pages aren’t interactice demos.

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        If I am making a website, there is virtually no incentive to care about people not allowing javascript.

        The fact is the web runs on javascript. The extra effort does not really give any tangible benefits.

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          You just proved my point. That is precisely the mechanism by which bloat finds its way into every crevice of software. It’s all about incentives, and the incentives are often stacked against the user’s best interest, particularly if minorities are affected. It is easier to write popular software than it is to write good software.

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            Every advance in computers and UI has been called bloat at one time or another.

            The fact of the matter is that web browsers “ship” with javascript enabled. A very small minority actually disable it. It is not worth the effort in time or expense to cater to a group that disables stuff and expects everything to still work.

            Am I using a framework?

            Most of the time, yes I am. To deliver what I need to deliver it is the most economical method.

            The only thing I am willing to spend extra time on is reasonable accommodation for disabilities. But most of the solutions for web accessibility (like screenreaders) have javascript enabled anyhow.

            You might get some of what you want with server side rendering.

            Good software is software that serves the end user’s needs. If there is interactivity, such as an app, obviously it is going to have javascript. Most things I tend to make these days are web apps. So no, Good Software doesn’t always require javascript.

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              I actually block javascript to help me filter bad sites. If you are writing a blog and I land there, and it doesn’t work with noscript on, I will check what domains are being blocked. If it is just the one I am accessing I will temp unblock and read on. If it is more than a couple of domains, or if any of them are unclear as to why they need to be loaded, you just lost a reader. It is not about privacy so much as keeping things neat and tidy and simple.

              People like me are probably a small enough subset that you don’t need our business.

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                Ah, the No-Script Index!

                How many times does one have to click “Set all this page to temporarily trusted” to get a working website? (i.e. you get the content you came for)

                Anything above zero, but definitely everything above one is too much.

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                  The absolute worst offender is microsoft. Not only is their average No-Script index around 3, but you also get multiple cross site scripting attack warnings. Additionally when it fails to load a site because of js not working it quite often redirects you to another page, so set temp trusted doesn’t even catch the one that caused the failure. Often you have to disable no-script altogether before you can log in and then once you are logged in you can re-enable it and set the domains to trusted for next time.

                  That is about 3% of my total rant about why microsoft websites are the worst. I cbf typing up the rest.

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                  i do this too, and i have no regrets, only gratitude. i’ve saved myself countless hours once i realized js-only correlates heavily with low quality content.

                  i’ve also stopped using medium, twitter, instagram, reddit. youtube and gmaps, i still allow for now. facebook has spectacular accessibility, ages ahead of others, and i still use it, after years away.

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                    My guess is that a lot of people who use JS for everything, especially their personal blogs and other static projects, are either lazy or very new to web development and programming in general. You can expect such people to be less willing or less able to put the effort into making worthwhile content.

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                      that’s exactly how i think it work, and why i’m happy to skip the content on js-only sites.

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                  The only thing I am willing to spend extra time on is reasonable accommodation for disabilities.

                  Why do you care more about disabled people than the privacy conscious? What makes you willing to spend time for accommodations for one group, but not the other? What if privacy consciousness were a mental health issue, would you spend time on accommodations then?

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                    Being blind is not a choice: disabling JavaScript is. And using JavaScript doesn’t mean it’s not privacy-friendly.

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                      It might be a “choice” if your ability to have a normal life, avoid prison, or not be executed depends on less surveillance. Increasingly, that choice is made for them if they want to use any digital device. It also stands out in many places to not use a digital device.

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                        This bears no relation at all to anything that’s being discussed here. This moving of goalposts from “a bit of unnecessary JavaScript on websites” to “you will be executed by a dictatorship” is just weird.

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                          You framed privacy as an optional choice people might not need as compared to the need for eyesight. I’d say people need sight more than privacy in most situations. It’s more critical. However, for many people, privacy is also a need that supports them having a normal, comfortable life by avoiding others causing them harm. The harm ranges from social ostracism upon learning specific facts about them to government action against them.

                          So, I countered that privacy doesn’t seem like a meaningless choice for those people any more than wanting to see does. It is a necessity for their life not being miserable. In rarer cases, it’s necessary for them even be alive. Defaulting on privacy as a baseline increases the number of people that live with less suffering.

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                            You framed privacy as an optional choice

                            No, I didn’t. Not even close. Not even remotely close. I just said “using JavaScript doesn’t mean it’s not privacy-friendly”. I don’t know what kind of assumptions you’re making here, but they’re just plain wrong.

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                              You also said:

                              “Being blind is not a choice: disabling JavaScript is.”

                              My impression was that you thought disabling Javascript was a meaningless choice vs accessibility instead of another type of necessity for many folks. I apologize if I misunderstood what you meant by that statement.

                              My replies don’t apply to you then: just any other readers that believed no JS was a personal preference instead of a necessity for a lot of people.

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                        The question isn’t about whether it’s privacy-friendly, though. The question is about whether you can guarantee friendliness when visiting any arbitrary site.

                        If JS is enabled then you can’t. Even most sites with no intention of harming users are equipped to do exactly that.

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                          disabling js on a slow device is not a choice, but required for functioning. you are basically saying fuck you to all the disadvantaged.

                          and all because you are being lazy.

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                            When you can get a quad core raspberry pi for $30 and similar hardware in a $50 phone, I really doubt that there are devices that can’t run most JS sites and someone who has a device of some sort can’t afford.

                            What devices do you see people using which can’t run JS?

                            The bigger question in terms of people being disadvantaged is network speed, where some sites downloading 1MB of scripts makes them inaccessible - but that’s an entirely separate discussion.

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                              how is that a separate discussion? it’s just one more scenario when js reduces accessibility.

                              as for devices, try any device over 5 years old.

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                              I literally have the cheapest phone you can buy in Indonesia (~€60) and I have the almost-cheapest laptop you can buy in Indonesia (~€250). So yeah, I’d say I’m “disadvantaged”.

                              Turns out, that many JavaScript sites work just fine. Yeah, Slack and Twitter don’t always – I don’t know how they even manage to give their inputs such input latency – but Lobsters works just fine (which uses JavaScript), my site works just fine as well (which uses JavaScript), and my product works great on low-end devices (which requires JavaScript), etc. etc. etc.

                              You know I actually tried very hard to make my product work 100% without JavaScript? It was a horrible experience for both JS and non-JS users and a lot more code. Guess I’m just too lazy to make it work correct 🤷‍♂️

                              So yeah, please, knock it with this attitude. This isn’t bloody Reddit.

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                                “I literally have the cheapest phone you can buy in Indonesia (~€60) and I have the almost-cheapest laptop you can buy in Indonesia (~€250). So yeah, I’d say I’m “disadvantaged”. Turns out, that many JavaScript sites work just fine.”

                                I’ve met lots of people in America who live dollar to dollar having to keep slow devices for a long time until better hand-me-downs show up on Craigslist or just clearance sales. Many folks in the poor or lower classes do have capable devices because they would rather spend money on that than other things. Don’t let anyone fool you that being poor always equals bad devices.

                                That said, the ones taking care of their families, doing proper budgeting, not having a car for finding deals, living in rural areas, etc often get stuck with bad devices and/or connections. I don’t have survey data on how many are in the U.S.. I know poor and rural populations are huge, though. It makes sense that some people push for a baseline that includes them when the non-inclusive alternative isn’t actually even necessary in many cases. When it is, there were lighter alternatives not used because of apathy. I’ve rarely seen situations where what they couldn’t easily use was actually necessary.

                                The real argument behind most of the sites is that they didn’t care. The ones that didn’t know often also didn’t care because they didn’t pay enough attention to people, esp low-income, to find out. If they say that, the conversations get more productive because we start out with their actual position. Then, strategies can be formed to address the issue in an environment where most suppliers don’t care. Much like we had to do in a lot of other sectors and situations where suppliers didn’t care about human cost of their actions. We got a lot of progress by starting with the truth. The web has many, dark truths to expose and address.

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                                  thank you for writing this out. the cheapest new phone in indonesia is probably much faster than your typical “obamaphone” or 3-year-old average device.

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                                    The Obama phones are actually Android devices that also have pre-installed government malware that can’t be removed. They have Chrome and run JS fine.

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                                      They have Chrome, and they run JS very slowly.

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                                        Are you going to cite any devices here? Which JS do they run slowly?

                                        My guess is that the issue is on specific documents. I’d think that the fact that JS is so often used in ways that don’t perform well is a much larger issue than this one. Sites using JS in ways that are slow is a completely different debate to be had in my opinion. Although giving someone a version of the page without JS seems a solution, it ignores the entire concept of progressive web apps and the history of the web that got us to them.

                                        EG, would you prefer the 2008 style of having a separate m.somesite.com that works without JS but tends to be made for small devices which tends to let corporations be okay with removing necessary functionality to simplify the “mobile experience”? Generally, that’s what we got that solution.

                                        The fact that even JS-enabled documents like https://m.uber.com allow you to view a JS map and get a car to come pick you up with reasonable performance on even the cheapest burner phones shows just how much bad programming plays into your opinion here instead of simply whether or not JS is the problem itself.

                                        It’s also worth noting that I am strongly interested in people doing less JS and the web being JS-less, but this isn’t the hill to die on in that battle if you ask me. Not only are you going to generally find people that aren’t sympathetic to disadvantaged people (because most programmers tend to not give any fucks unfortunately) but also because the devices that run JS are generally not going to be slow enough that decent JS isn’t going to run. If we introduce some new standard that replaces HTML, it’ll likely still be read by browsers that still support HTML / JS - which means the issue still remains because people aren’t going to prioritize a separate markup for their entire site depending on devices which is the exact reason that most companies stopped doing m.example.com. The exception to this rule seems to be bank & travel companies in my experience.

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                                          Here is an example device I test with regularly:

                                          iPad 528LL/A, iOS 9.3.5

                                          This iPad is less than 10 years old, and still works well on most sites with JS disabled. With JS enabled, even many text-based sites slow it down to the point of being unresponsive.

                                          This version of iOS and Safari are gracious enough to include a JavaScript on/off toggle under Advanced, but no fine-grained control. This means that every time I want to toggle JS, I have to exit Safari, open Settings, scroll down to Safari, scroll down to Advanced, toggle JS, and then return to Safari.

                                          Or are you going to tell me that my device is too old to visit your website? I’ll be on my way, then.

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                                            It’s also worth noting that I am strongly interested in people doing less JS and the web being JS-less, but this isn’t the hill to die on in that battle if you ask me. Not only are you going to generally find people that aren’t sympathetic to disadvantaged people (because most programmers tend to not give any fucks unfortunately)

                                            I think this is changing for the better, slowly but faster more recently.

                                            but also because the devices that run JS are generally not going to be slow enough that decent JS isn’t going to run. If we introduce some new standard that replaces HTML, it’ll likely still be read by browsers that still support HTML / JS - which means the issue still remains because people aren’t going to prioritize a separate markup for their entire site depending on devices which is the exact reason that most companies stopped doing m.example.com.

                                            I think with some feature checking and progressive enhancement, you can do a lot. For example, my demo offers basic forum functionality in Mosaic, Netscape, Opera 3.x, IE 3.x, and modern browsers with and without JS. If you have JS, you get some extra features like client-side encryption and voting buttons which update in-place instead of loading a new page.

                                            I think it’s totally doable, with a little bit of effort, to live up to the original dream of HTML which works in any browser.

                                            The exception to this rule seems to be bank & travel companies in my experience.

                                            Facebook (ok, mbasic.facebook.com) MetaFilter Lobste.rs (for reading) old.reddit.com (for reading) Most blogs posted to lobsters and hn are actually nojs-friendly

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                                      Aside from devices without a real browser, JavaScript should run fine on any device people are going to get in 2020 - even through hand-me-downs.

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                                        I’m going to try to replace my grandmother’s laptop soon. I’ve verified it runs unbearably slow in general but especially on JS-heavy sites she uses. It’s a Toshiba Satellite with Sempron SI-42, 2GB of RAM and Windows 7. She got it from a friend as a gift presumably replacing her previous setup. Eventually, despite many reinstalls to clear malware, the web sites she uses were unbearably slow.

                                        “When you can get a quad core raspberry pi for $30 and similar hardware in a $50 phone,”

                                        She won’t use a geeky setup. She has a usable, Android phone. She leaves it in her office, occasionally checking the messages. In her case, she wants a nice-looking laptop she can set on her antique-looking desk. Big on appearances.

                                        An inexpensive, decent-looking, Windows laptop seems like the best idea if I can’t get her on a Chromebook or something. I’ll probably scour eBay eventually like I did for my current one ($240 Thinkpad T420). If that’s $240, there’s gotta be some deals out there in the sub-Core i7 range. :)

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                                          Sure, but just to clarify - we are talking about people who may need to save money to get the $30 for something like a raspberry pi. Not someone who can drop $240 on a new laptop.

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                                            Oh yeah. I was just giving you the device example you asked for. She’s in the category of people who would need to save money: she’s on Social Security. These people still usually won’t go with a geeky rig even if their finances justify it. Psychology in action.

                                            I do actually have a Pi 3 I could try to give her. I’d have to get her some kind of nice monitor, keyboard, and mouse for it. I’m predicting, esp with the monitor, the sum of the components might cost the same as or more than a refurbished laptop for web browsing. I mentioned my refurbished Core i7 for $240 on eBay as an example that might imply lower-end laptops with good performance might be much cheaper. I’ll find out soon.

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                                          But what about a device people got in 2015 or 2010? Or, dare I say, older devices, which still work fine, and may be kept around for any number of reasons like nostalgia or sentimental attachment?

                                          Sure, you can tell all these people to also stuff it, but don’t pretend they don’t exist.

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                                  Why do you care more about disabled people than the privacy conscious?

                                  Oh that one is easy: Its the law.

                                  Being paranoid isn’t a protected class, it might be a mental health issue - but my website has nothing to do with its treatment.

                                  For the regular privacy, you have other extensions and cookie management you can do.

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                                  You have some good points. One thing I didn’t see addressed is the number of people on dial-up, DSL, satellite, cheap mobile, or other bad connections. The HTML/CSS-type web pages usually load really fast on them. The Javascript-type sites often don’t. They can act pretty broken, too. Here’s some examples someone posted to HN showing impact of JavaScript loads.

                                  “If there is interactivity, such as an app, obviously it is going to have javascript. “

                                  I’ll add that this isn’t obvious. One of the old models was client sending something, server-side processing, and server returns modified HTML. With HTML/CSS and fast language on server, the loop can happen so fast that the user can barely perceive a difference vs a slow, bloated, JS setup. It would also work for vast majority of websites I use and see.

                                  The JS becomes necessary as the UI complexity, interactivity (esp latency requirements), and/or local computations increase past a certain point. Google Maps is an obvious example.

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                                    It is interesting to see people still using dialup. Professionally, I use typescript and angular. The bundle sizes on that are rather insane without much code. Probably unusable on dialup.

                                    However, for my personal sites I am interested in looking at things like svelte mixed with dynamic loading. It might help to mitigate some of the issues that Angular itself has. But fundamentally, it is certainly hard to serve clients when you have apps like you mention - Google Maps. Perhaps a compromise is to try to be as thrifty as can be justified by the effort, and load most of the stuff up front, cache it as much as possible, and use smaller api requests so most of the usage of the app stays within the fast local interaction.

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                                      <rant>

                                      Google Maps used to have an accessibility mode which was just static pages with arrow buttons – the way most sites like MapQuest worked 15 years ago. I can only guess why they took it away, but now you just get a rather snarky message.

                                      Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the message is cached, and doesn’t go away even when you reload with JS enabled again. Only when you Shift+reload do you get the actual maps page.

                                      This kind of experience is what no-JS browsers have to put up with every fucking day, and it’s rather frustrating and demoralizing. Not only am I blocked from accessing the service, but I’m told that my way of accessing it itself invalid.

                                      Sometimes I’m redirected to rather condescending “community” sites that tell me step by step how to re-enable JavaScript in my browser, which by some random, unfortunate circumstance beyond my control must have become disabled.

                                      All I want to say to those web devs at times like that is: Go fuck yourself, you are all lazy fucking hacks, and you should be ashamed that you participated in allowing, through action or inaction, this kind of half-baked tripe to see the light of day.

                                      My way of accessing the Web is just as valid as someone’s with JS enabled, and if you disagree, then I’m going to do everything in my power to never visit your shoddy establishment again.

                                      </rant>

                                      Edit: I just want to clarify, that this rant was precipitated by other discussions I’ve been involved in, my overall Web experience, and finally, parent comment’s mention of Google Maps. This is not aimed specifically at you, @zzing.

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                                It shouldn’t be extra effort, is the point. If you’re just writing some paragraphs of text, or maybe a contact form, or some page navigation, etc etc you should just create those directly instead of going through all the extra effort of reinventing your own broken versions.

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                                  Often the stuff I am making has a lot more than that. I use front end web frameworks to help with it.

                                  Very few websites today have just text or a basic form.

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                                    Ok, well, that wasn’t at all clear since you were replying to this:

                                    It boggles my mind that there are more and more websites that just contain text and images, but are completely broken, blank or even outright block you if you disable JavaScript.

                                    Many websites I see fit this description. They’re not apps, they don’t have any “behaviour” (at least none that a user can notice), but they still have so much JS that it takes over 256MB of RAM to load them up and with JS turned off they show a blank white page. That’s the topic of this thread, at least by the OP.

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                                      Very few websites today have just text or a basic form.

                                      Uhh… Personal websites? Blogs? Many of the users here on Lobsters maintain sites like these. No need to state falsehoods to try and prove your point; there are plenty of better arguments you could be making.

                                      As an aside, have you seen Sourcehut? That’s an entire freakin’ suite of web apps which don’t just function without JavaScript but work beautifully. Hell, Lobsters almost makes it into this category as well.

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                                  Some types of buttons, menus, text and images aren’t implemented in plain HTML. These kinds should still be built in JS. For instance, 3-state buttons. There are CSS hacks to make a button appear 3-state, but no way to define behavior for them without JS. People can hack together radio inputs to look like a single multi-state button, but that’s a wild hack that most developers aren’t going to want to tackle.

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                                    I’m trying to learn more about accessibility, and recently came across a Twitter thread with this to say: “Until the platform improves, you need JS to properly implement keyboard navigation”, with a couple video examples.

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                                      I think that people that want keyboard navigation will use a browser that supports that out of the box, they won’t rely on each site to implement it.

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                                        The world needs more browsers like Qutebrowser.

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                                    It boggles the mind that “when you make web sites, make sure they aren’t fundamentally broken” is a fringe, “hot take” kind of a message, but here we are.

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                                      Another way to look at this is that a web browser comes with javascript enabled. So my website will work. Now you turn off javascript, and it breaks - then you complain.

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                                        The most effective ad blocker, tracking blocker, and load speed enhancer, is blocking JavaScript.

                                        The web with JavaScript is half broken because of JS abuse, and only enabling it selectively on sites I trust is my best defense. There are things that light use improves, but they’re often not worth the downsides. On top of it, the sites that rely heavily on javascript often don’t implement the accessibility things that they should when they reinvent behavior.

                                        I wish JS prompted for permission the way that notifications, webcam access, and similarly intrusive things did.

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                                          Is not that all sites should be no-JavaScript sites, but the very basic navigation and basic features should work without the need of JS. People disable JS in order to avoid tracking and ads, not because they want to bother developers. At least that is the way I see it.

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                                            A lot of time it only stops working without JS is that it reinvents standard UI with a broken surrogate thereof. You (an abstract “you”, not you personally) break the back button, break scroll, make fake buttons. Then the result sucks real hard for people who disable JS and for people who use accessibility tools. But guess what? It sucks for everyone. I can’t search the page content for the interesting post I’ve seen 10 minutes ago. I can’t scroll to it without the JS messing up with that feed. I can’t go back to the previous page of search results. Some people refuse to accept it as the new normal—to few to make a difference for now.

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                                              In many frameworks there are ways to accommodate this through routing and diligent use of anchors.

                                              If I can use a regular UI element with styling on my site, that will be where I go.

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                                              That’s inaccurate; some browsers come with it enabled and others don’t.

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                                                Perhaps I should clarify: when I say “a web browser comes with javascript enabled” I am referring to browsers whose usage is above a rounding error.

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                                                  This is starting to sound exactly like the rhetoric people defended IE6, and then Flash with. ;)

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                                                    Don’t worry, the next one will probably be javascript vs webassembly.

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                                                    There are only three currently-maintained browsers that support Javascript, and two of the three are controlled by a megacorp with a long history of abusing their users rights. (the third one is arguably as well since that’s where the funding comes from, but that’s more of a grey area)

                                                    A web that can’t be used without Javascript is a web that tells anyone without billion-dollar-deep pockets that they aren’t welcome.

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                                                      I think there are technically four. I am not sure exactly which ones you are counting, but Microsoft’s Edge does have some differences from Chrome, and Apple has Safari.

                                                      I am not going to say that this is the ideal situation, but it is the situation we have. The effort to make a browser is not what it once was. I assume you are referring to the making a browser in the last bit. I think it does actually get worst because of the DRM on codecs.

                                                      I checked with a friend who is in network support and IT. He often browses with Javascript disabled as well.

                                                      I think the fundamental problem is that inclusiveness is expensive. The products I make at work are apps that just won’t work without javascript. That isn’t to say it couldn’t be made without javascript, but it would work like an application from 2000 and wouldn’t be particularly attractive to our customers.

                                                      My own sites, it isn’t about money but more about time. Most of what I plan on doing on my site are apps or very interactive pages, but there is a front end section that is more descriptive. Is there was any part that should work without javascript it is likely that. My preference would be for a framework to be able to generate those sections for me, so I can get the advantages of it without adding extra time to the effort.

                                                      This whole thread has gotten me thinking about the alternative to Javascript. It is like the tricks that people used to do for menus in javascript that eventually people figured out how to do in CSS. A real solution to the issue could be a declarative system that allows for advanced UI yet not arbitrary code. It might rely more on the backend for certain processing, but you could be sure that the front end couldn’t run arbitrary code.

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                                                  Web browsers shouldn’t come with JavaScript enabled. Just as with Flash back in the day, it should be disabled and the user should have to enable it specifically for a site.

                                                  JavaScript is inimical to everything the Web stands for. It has destroyed the web of linked documents and replaced them with walled garden, unlinkable SPAs. It requires readers to run a heavyweight graphical browser when the lightweight lynx or eww. They have led to a world of dynamic applications performing the job of static pages, breaking caching.

                                                  There is absolutely no reason to grant every website execute permission when all it needs is to display text and images.

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                                                    Browsers come with a lot of stuff enabled, does your site then have to use all those bells and whistles?

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                                                      Interesting way to put it but seems specious, I wouldn’t exactly group javascript with “all the bells and whistles” it is a very basic feature on the modern web.

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                                                  I don’t understand why a lot of websites now require JavaScript to load images, such as Medium. This is a basic feature from web browsers!

                                                  I heard about “lazy loading” but I never had any issue with pages with a lot of images (except maybe, very long pages ? this should be a browser issue to handle). Recent browsers support loading=lazy attribute.

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                                                    It’s mainly for tracking and collecting data. See those videos that popup on news sites that have no relation to what you are reading there? A lot of times that’s what it is. Analytics. It’s harder to block those on videos.

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                                                      Trying to improve we make things worse..

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                                                      Soon we’ll start seeing blog posts about this brand new thing that means your website will work even with JS disabled. Let’s call this brand new concept “progressive enhancement”.