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Posted 8/22/22 - Updated 9/22/22

The bait and switch model of web design



see more tweets from, log in to view more posts from, ah now, you need clearance for that

"Private companies can do what they want" is the common response whenever these sort of UI complaints are brought up. But the sheer dishonesty of it always bothered me - the bait and switch.

Web 2.0

In the mid 2000s, Web 2.0 wasn't just a euphemism for social media, it meant the ability to pipe data between services using APIs. Once a large userbase was secured - only then did the mask came off. The APIs, although not entirely gone today, were cut back or left neglected.

YouTube embeds served their purpose of getting people to promote it for free on other sites, now features have gradually been taken out, presumably in the hopes that you'll go to their website and stay there, clicking every ad you see due to brain parasites.

Did you know you used to be able to hide all of the YouTube branding in embedded videos? (showinfo=0) Disable related videos from showing at the end? (rel=0) Yes, it does make sense for a business to not allow that, but why were they so enticingly allowed in the first place?

There is one interesting counter-argument. On a platform like Facebook where you're expected to reveal intimate details, data could be extracted by malicious third parties. This Video Has **,***,*** Views is a video you may already be familiar with, which explains the whole thing better than I could.

Instagram mangles HTML itself

Apparently Instagram allows you to post one and only one link, in your bio. This was news to me.

It makes sense, considering hyperlinks don't grow on trees. They can only be constructed from promethium. Meta generously allows each of it's users a share of the rare element, which can only be produced on a scale measuring in grams.

...that's not how it works? Well surely there's some way to justify this. Maybe it's an acceptable trade off because it allows users to avoid the herculean effort of typing thousands of lines of code.

<a href="URL GOES HERE">kiss my ass!</a>

That's how you make a link.

Instagram programmers: please email me and tell me how you cope with the embarrassment.

A few "interesting" quotes by Tim Berners-Lee in 1999, published in Weaving the Web:

p 139
" is even more important to understand that a link does not have to imply any endorsement. Free speech in hypertext implies the 'right to link,' which is the very basic building unit for the whole Web."

p 141
"These are my personal feelings about how hypertext should be interpreted, and my intent. I am not an expert on the legalities in each country. However, if the general right to link is not upheld for any reason, then fundamental principles of free speech are at stake, and something had better be changed."

Perhaps this is the ultimate bait and switch. Without links, the whole concept of the Web simply wouldn't have worked out in the first place. Once the web was already a success, parasites like Instagram latched on and haven't let go since.