The Web is pretty great with Javascript turned off

Wired's Klint Finley tried turning off Javascript and discovered a better Web, one without interruptors asking you to sign up for mailing list, without infinitely scrolling pages, without ads and without malvertising.

He also found that a bunch of stuff he wanted and needed didn't work — Twitter no longer counted his keystrokes, Wired no longer let him comment, he couldn't watch Youtube videos and Google Docs stopped working.

Finley talks about efforts to make Javascript more transparent and more user-controlled, primarily the Free Software Foundation's Librejs project, and their engineering support for organizations who want to remake their sites to be less dependent on proprietary Javascript.

I've used Noscript for years, and I get around the problems Finley identifies by whitelisting pages that have functionality I want that only works with Javascript. In the end, Finley turned JS back on, seemingly because running "unknown Javascript" on his computer sometimes was equivalent to running it all the time, which is a decision I don't really understand.

CrowdSupply co-founder Joshua Lifton says the issue of proprietary JavaScript was already on his radar when free-software advocate Richard Stallman emailed him earlier this year about the Free JavaScript campaign. Some of the best known products sold through CrowdSupply are open source laptops from Novena and Purism, and many of the customers who wanted to buy those laptops browse with JavaScript turned off.

"There were campaigns where almost every day someone emailed in. So you can assume that for every person who emails in, you can expect 100 didn't," he says. Some were emailing out of an ideological commitment. Others, it turned out, didn't realize that JavaScript was causing their problems. Either way, he realized it was a real problem, and the company stripped out the majority of its proprietary JavaScript. Today the site still uses Google Analytics, but customers can now make purchases through CrowdSupply without using any JavaScript at all. As a result, Lifton says, the site is speedier and easier to use, which he expects will only increase sales. "There's certainly an ideological slant here," he says. "But it's not bad for business."

I Turned Off JavaScript for a Whole Week and It Was Glorious [Klint Finley/Wired]