What the Browser is Missing

Unix-like operating systems are great. *nix features wonderfully
thought out file-systems complete with grand methods for traversing
(navigating) file/folder hierarchies. This is great, but it isn't what
makes *nix "great".

*nix have standards, transparency, and passionate active communities
which results in fairly fast release schedules and general high
quality maintenance standards. They can manifest as specialty
distributions, attacking individual core concerns such as security,
minimalism, scalability, and entertainment. This is great, but it
isn't what makes *nix great.

When people think of *nix, they may think Unix, or Linux. Or BSD or
FreeBSD, or Solaris, or Darwin. They may even think of the kernel,
insmod, block devices, of schedulers, of inittab, of systemv or
systemd, or containers. These are all great things. They are great
things specifically because their purpose is to enable great things.

When I think *nix, I think of man, curses, bash/zsh, irssi, mutt/pine,
emacs/vim, tmux, diff, gcc, python, and GNU coreutils. I think of
forks, PIPES. Good old fashioned anonymous pipes! The magical ability
to employ those (analogical) futuristic US Post Vacuum tubes and beam
parcels of data from one program to another, with nothing in your way
to stop you. That is, I think of *nix, the philosophy. The philosophy
which combines *nix and GNU. Which views every program as an interface
which can be programmed, extended, modified, and in such spirit,
combined with other programs for great glory!

That *nixes are extensible, flexible, customizable, and treat
programmers as 1st-class citizens, awarding freedom and access to
underlying systems and architecture. This is what makes *nix
great. And it't not just that each program should be free (as in
freedom) or open source, but that it's running instance offers an API
or configuration layer (rc's, etc) affording arbitrary extensibility
or accessibility to the "average programming/tinkering user" and not
only core developers whose changes emerge in a build. I'm talking
about bash.rc, about .emacs. This is what makes *nixes so great.

But web browsers, even the open source ones, are almost entirely
lacking in this key philosophy.

In a web browser, we are constrained to a rudimentary "navigation"
system (forward, back, history, cancel, url bar / "go" -- fortunately
there are web services like google for actually finding
content). We're limited to a minimal file system (tabs,
bookmarks/favorites). Forget archiving resources in case they are
taken offline. Forget marking a resource as "read later". Forget
creating a directed graph of the resources you're visiting. Forget
making collections of tabs (unless you're firefox and produce the
worst, most unusable implementation of this feature I can possible
conceive -- but hey, at least it's there). Browsers tend to focus on
their core competencies: security and providing a fast and performant
rasterization/rendering system for (html, jss, etc) web standards. And
don't get me wrong, this is important, just like *nix is
important. But what browsers need is GNU coreutils. It needs emacs/vim
love. It needs pipes. And I'm not talking about "chrome extensions"
(though there are some great extensions, e.g. vimium which may even be
the exception which proves the following rule).

The biggest joke on us is, we have one of the most powerful languages
for manipulating everything in the browser (ecmascript/javascript) at
our disposal, except for manipulating the browser itself! Some
browsers are trying to address this (e.g. http://conkeror.org/ --
emacs styled tiled windows in feature branch!) and I will be
supporting them in whatever ways I can. What we need is the
bash/emacs/vim of browsers -- e.g. coding changes to your browser
(emacs style) without requiring recompiling and
building. Intercommunication between these native extensions. And a
package manager. The GNU of browsers. But first, the *nix of browsing
must exist.


Drew, Josh Juran, and I (XXX tags needed) were discussing this and
other related concepts, like how it would be nice if every HTTP
resource had a "git"-like history preserved for it and a
special/reserved GET param could be used in order to specifying the
version hash of the specific instance of the resource you want (like
wikipedia does with
permalinks). e.g. cnn.com/stories/boy-wins-money?rcv=1AC89F71.