Dynamic Google doodle draws dancers, complaints | Deep Tech - CNET News:

Today's Google doodle honors choreographer Martha Graham's birthday--and with animated dancers revealing it, the doodle also showcases the company's push to build a more dynamic Web.

The only problem: some people find it's slowing their machines. That's hardly the outcome that Google--obsessed over every millisecond of delay in delivering search results--could have wanted.

The interesting thing here is that the animation is apparently all done with dhtml instead of, say, an animated gif, which would have done just as well. The code is a mess. And using the javascript engine to power your animation as well as your keystroke sensing is a little cannibalistic. It's like ethanol -- there's no inherent reason that corn prices should be directly and immediately influenced by gasoline price until we started feeding our mouths and tanks with the same stuff. It's a ill-fated confluence of convenience.

Google's "everything's a nail" attitude also reminds me of what the Free Software Foundation is trying to call "The Javascript Trap. Because Gmail's interface online is full of proprietary code, the FSF has decided they'd like to tell their mail list subscribers to stop using that fully-featured web app.

You may not be aware of the dangers of JavaScript -- a problem we've deemed The JavaScript Trap -- proprietary software running on your computer, inside your web browser.
When you visit a website such as Gmail, your browser will download and run several thousand lines of JavaScript code. This JavaScript code is no different to other programming languages -- applications written in those languages running on our computers should be free software, so we can run, modify and share them if we wish.

It's an interesting line, but a flawed one (my first reaction was a solid "Oh noes!"), I think. The Javascript is still out there for you to review and edit. It's heavily obfuscated, even moreso than decompiling many Java or .NET apps, I'd argue, but it's still out there. The FSF should be more worried about the proprietary software on the Gmail servers. They suggest IMAP and Thunderbird is the way to go, which is nice, but they obviously haven't used Thunderbird recently. (I kidded hyperbolically)

I wonder if Javascript on your browser isn't in some sense a use of a little-"o" open source medium that is more in tune with FSF than, say, Outlook. Sure you've still got the assembler/machine code of Outlook -- any app is just a bunch of zeroes and ones -- so you could argue it's open too, but Gmail is several steps closer.

I did email Mr. Lee, who sent out an email to me (and everyone else) saying that I should stop using Gmail's online interface. Here's a bit of my replies.

Though I expect Google's Javascript is copyrighted, it would seem that studying the Javascript is still possible, isn't it? I'll admit I haven't checked the code, but each include file, etc, is downloaded to your browser, so we're a few cURLs away from the source, aren't we? What's different here?
... [he's nice enough to reply, and I send another]...
There's nothing illegal about having your browser interpret Javascript differently, is there? We can turn off window.open, eg, having our browsers censor or rewrite code. There's an implicit openness to and ability to modify the interpretation of [little "o"] open Javascript already. Extend Tor and interpret away, (c) or no.

Like Java, the code's all there by virtue of the system, you know? Your Gmail protest is really arguing that Free also implies "written for humans", which is a point I really appreciate. It'd be great to see that slant foregrounded more in FSF posts and projects.

Open source is, ultimately, all about the human readability, isn't it? The "Javascript trap" really means that you can't stop at open. If I obfuscate my Java as part of the compilation process and release the obfuscated code, it's not really Open is it?

Still, Google's mastery and overuse of Javascript is an excellent point. What are they doing with our browsers? Why are they willing to compromised their own functionality to recreate the animated gif or SVG? And even though their interface seems very simplistic to the point of minimalism, which platforms are part of the Google web and which aren't?

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