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Strong opinions, weakly held

View source is essential

First, my position: ceteris paribus, view-source was necessary (but not sufficient) to make HTML the dominant application platform of our times. I also hold that it is under attack — not least of all from within — and that losing view-source poses a significant danger to the overall health of the web.

Alex Russell in View-Source Is Good? Discuss.

In the early days of the Web, we all learned with view source. The essential piece that got the Web off the runway was that all you needed to create a Web site was a browser, a text editor, and a server that was connected to the Internet.

4 Comments

  1. Is this actually a serious discussion about if the “view-source” option is removed from a menu? Or is there something more nefarious afoot to remove accessible source more globally (like some sort of encryption and authenticated browsering?). I mean, y’all have heard of “wget”, right?

    On second and third reads, this seems to be a “code vs. markup” thing, or not. There’s an inexactitude to the article linked that leaves an engineer like me wondering what the hell he’s going on about.

    I mean, I see the code/markup/css divisions as sort of arbitrary. It’s all code. Granted, there are conceptual/operational differences between a text markup language and a turing-complete computer language, but none of this is inaccessible (server side things like PHP not-withstanding).

    What I see more problematic is technologies that rely on client-side browser horsepower. We already have enough of a problem in the mobile space with all-flash and javascript-bloat, and a push to obscure things only makes it worse.

  2. His argument seems to be that if the markup on a page is generated by JavaScript running on that page rather than being rendered by the server, it breaks the culture of view source. It’s a worry, but these days we do now have the option of using Firebug, which deals well with generated content.

  3. I’m with Jason on this. The author’s distinction seems to be between HTML he can read and learn from, and Javascript he can read and choose not to learn from. More charitably, any added complexity will cut some people out. I think that’s true, but it’s often worth it.

    As for view-source working usefully in the face of locally modified content, I don’t see why there couldn’t be both “view original source” and “view current page content”.

  4. And if you use GWT the page is generated by obfuscated compiled Javascript. It is extremely difficult to take a GWT application without source and do anything useful with it.

    The application markup language I’ve been working on uses plain JSON files for interface declarations.

    The other thing view source is good for is debugging. It allowed non-programmers to track down the source of bugs in front-end code. That is not true of Javascript interfaces by a very long way.

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