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Thank you but no, Thank you.

JavaScript is widely used on web pages to enhance the consumer experience and indeed there is a lot of great functionality out there that would not be possible without JavaScript. I am a JQuery fan – it enables great interaction and is mostly unobtrusive.

However, JavaScript, like Flash too, takes a toll on the CPU cycles (and battery life) and bandwidth of the device used to access the web.  It is also used and abused to deliver payloads that do not benefit me, such as ads, sniffing, tracking and profiling code, and (yes, they still exist) cheesy irritating animations.

I surf the web with NoScript set at the most stringent level.  When I land on a web page I have never been to before, it presents plenty of empty light-yellow void boxes. I examine each piece of active content until the website is functional to my taste. Some I approve permanently (trusted). Some I block permanently (untrusted). Some I approve temporarily.  Once NoScript has learned my rules, repeat visit are smooth and unencumbered.

I surf the web on a netbook-class (Intel Atom) machine and some pages that come to a grinding halt under the weight of the active payload become decently usable when the “consumer-hostile” code is prevented from loading.

My definition of “consumer-hostile” code boils down to a simple cost/benefit-analysis. What is the cost of letting that JavaScript run on my CPU cycles and what are the benefits to me?

Below is a list of what I classify as “consumer-hostile”.  Your definition may vary.

  • Advertising. The only form of advertising that appeals to me is search ads.  Everything else I am simply not not interested.  It interrupts, distracts, and has no value for me.  Most ad networks deliver their payload through a third party JavaScript.  This opens Pandora’s box and out of it come all sorts of CPU hogging, display clogging, bandwidth wasting stuff.
  • Tracking and sniffing code. I don’t like to be tracked. I don’t want to be served ads based on my “behavior”. I don’t need Google to know which site I visited at lunch break and which site I visited at 2 AM, so if you’re using GoogleAnalytics to get visitor stats, I’m stealth, because that piece of JavaScript is unwelcome on my machine.
  • All kind of useless bells and whistles. Why do some sites use Flash to display a header that would be easily solved with a few bytes of text in a header tag? Fonts? use standard CSS @font-face.  Extra-Bonus:  your website will be understandable to search engines and you will not need to hire SEO charlatans to try to push its ranking up.
  • Flash. Yes, Flash has its use, but it is a CPU hog that depletes the battery, increases the fan noise and turns the heat to a level that laptops become barely bearable on the laps. And it has its whole lot of issues with privacy and tracking.
  • When the site’s navigation is slowed down by JavaScript.  Luckily, since search engines do not understand JavaScript, most sites offer a gracefully degraded plain HTML navigation.  For example I love to listen to shoutcast radio.  Navigating without JavaScript opens the radios right into my favorite media player. With JavaScript enabled it defaults to Flash and AOL sends some sniffing and tracking code along.

In most cases, filtering all of this active content has only benefits to me. Site designers tend to do a good job at graceful degradation and the sites I use are mostly functional without active content. Good for accessibility, and good for me.

Some sites break if the “consumer-hostile” payload is not accepted. Sometimes the “consumer-hostile” payload is part of the core functionality. In those cases it becomes a trade-off.  Am I really interested in the site?  I may make a temporary exception, tolerate the active payload in full awareness of the consequences such as data collection by third parties despite the do-not-track header sent with every single request from my browser.  In most cases I am not interested and won’t do.

Sometimes the payload is only for specific functions. Take for instance Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, Yahoo’s Maps, GoogleMaps, or other such webmaster tools that are given away for *free”.  Free as in free of charge, but there is an implicit barter: your traffic in exchange for the tools.  And that traffic is used to compile detailed profiles of consumer’s online activity.  The link is not far away to their offline profiles, zip codes, and other information that marketers try to gather from many sources.

Popular websites incorporate on average 64 trackers on their pages.  Thank you, but no thank you.  Online advertising spending in the US is projected to 42 billions this year.  For a population of approximately 309 millions.  That’s roughly 12$/month per person.  Assuming that all this money is spent to generate the content and services that are used by consumers to have the web as we know it today without ads would cost each consumer 12$/month.  For a better web experience?  I would pay.  Would you?

One Response

  1. Hell, I’d happily pay $50+ a month to have my entire internet experience be faster, ad-free and without any kind of tracking.

    Sadly, this $12 a month is the minimum cost that they can spend to get what they want, not the full value of the data they get. Controlling the populace is worth far more than $50 a month a person to many parties.

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