There is a Linux distribution called Gentoo, named after a type of penguin (of course it’s named after a penguin), where installing an app doesn’t mean that you download a working app. Instead, when you say “install this app”, it downloads the source code for that app and then compiles it on your computer. This apparently gives you the freedom to make changes to exactly how that app is built, even as it requires you to have a full set of build tools and compilers and linkers just to get a calculator. I think it’s clear that the world at large has decided that this is not the way to do things, as evidenced by how almost no other OSes take this approach — you download a compiled binary of an app and run it, no compiling involved — but it’s nice that it exists, so that the few people who really want to take this approach can choose to do so.
This sort of thing gets a lot of sneering from people who think that all Linux OSes are like that, that people who run Linux think that it’s about compiling your own kernels and using the Terminal all the time. Why would you want to do that sort of thing, you neckbeard, is the underlying message, and I largely agree with it; to me (and most people) it seems complicated and harder work for the end user, and mostly a waste of time — the small amount of power I get from being able to tweak how a thing is built is vastly outweighed by the annoyance of having to build it if I want it. Now, a Gentoo user doesn’t actually have to know anything about compilation and build tools, of course; it’s all handled quietly and seamlessly by the install command, and the compilers and linkers and build tools are run for you without you needing to understand. But it’s still a bunch of things that my computer has to do that I’m just not interested in it doing, and I imagine you feel the same.
So I find it disappointing that this is how half the web industry have decided to make websites these days.
Old joke: someone walks into a cheap-looking hotel and asks for a room. You’ll have to make your own bed, says the receptionist. The visitor agrees, and is told: you’ll find a hammer and nails behind the door.
What about the About page? That is just static text, surely that’s quicker? No, it is worse. (Of course, all the JS/CSS would be cached, but so to on mine, and you still don’t have to wait for JS to construct your HTML if you just give it HTML.) pic.twitter.com/Rxyz322ngt— Matthew Somerville (@dracos) April 19, 2020
Almost all of us don’t want this for our native apps, and think it would be ridiculous; why have we decided that our users have to have it on their websites? Web developers: maybe stop insisting that your users compile your apps for you? Or admit that you’ll put them through an experience that you certainly don’t tolerate on your own desktops, where you expect to download an app, not to be forced to compile it every time you run it? You’re not neckbeards… you just demand that your users have to be. You’re neckbeard creators. You want to browse this website? Here’s a hammer and nails.
Unless you run Gentoo already, of course! In which case… compile away.