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lynx-dev What to do about javascript

From: Martin McCormick
Subject: lynx-dev What to do about javascript
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2000 09:28:07 -0500

        The discussions about javascript and the input from
several people who know a lot more about the inturnals of it than
I do has been interesting in that it makes one think a lot.
Someone raised the issue as to whether it is better to modify the
Mozilla source code to support a textual interface than it is to
try to make lynx behave like IE or Netscape.

        Anyway you look at it, it is going to take somebody or
some group a lot of time and toil to make it work.  I posted the
following message to the netscape.public.mozilla.general news
group to see what the general response is.

        My thinking is that if a text interface can be added to
Mozilla, it will be more likely to grow with the changing
technology at least until some new radically different form of
the web comes along that doesn't fit what is in Mozilla and then
it will be another version of the same problem all over again,
but this should give us lots of breathing room.

        In other words, we are on the cusp and none of the
choices are particularly pleasant.  My posting to usenet follows.


        There is a discussion on the lynx development group about
the feasibility of adding javascripting capability to lynx.  For those
who are not familiar with lynx, it is a text-based Internet browser
which was and is still popular with people who either have slow
connections, must use older equipment that does not support graphics
(Yes, Virginia, there is such stuff.), or by people who are either
totally blind or have poor enough vision as to not be able to use a
screen at all; (People who have no use for a screen no matter how big
or bright you make it will be here even after the older equipment is

        The problem right now is that most web sites play strictly to
the Netscape/IE axis and use java and javascript.  The javascript
causes lynx users to see what looks like a page they can use until
they make a selection and their choice is simply ignored because it
isn't a mouse click.

        The java simply gets ignored completely.  If that is a banner
ad, whoopee!  The trouble is that it is some integral part of
something the client wants to do and ends up breaking a download or
preventing some other useful task.

        The discussion on the lynx list is serious in that people are
wondering if it would be better to try to adapt the Mozilla source
code to fix the GUIproblem rather than rework lynx which is, according
to those who know a lot about it, beginning to truly show its age.

        I am just beginning to understand the technical nature of the
problem.  I fit in to the totally blind group.  i can see the Sun when
it is out, flash bulbs, lightning, etc, but not a monitor screen.  I
have been a lynx user for almost ten years and love the way it can be
installed on a UNIX/Linux platform and then gives web access to
ancient terminals that handle only text.  The problem is that text is
truly the best method for quick communication with people who are
blind.  In the real world of trying to solve today's problems with
existing technology, text works best and most economically as a
communications medium for people who are blind.  It can be fed in to
relatively inexpensive hardware and software to produce speech or it
can be fed in to admittedly much more expensive Braille display
devices to produce Braille without too much trouble.

        There are initiatives that may, one day, make the X
environment work for computer users who are blind, but they are not
yet practical.

        There are several software applications that attempt to bring
the world of Microsoft Windows to people who are blind and they work
quite well for certain applications, but they are all
commercial products that frankly cost an arm and a leg and tend only
to work correctly when tuned to the particular application rather than
generally automatically working in most cases.

        It would seem to me that Mozilla is in a unique spot with the
open source and the fact that it already does java and javascript.  In
other words, it should be easier to give Mozilla a non graphical user
interface to coexist with the present GUI than it is to try to make
lynx pretend to be Internet Explorer or Netscape.

        Is there presently any work being done on this by anybody?  My
idea would be that one would install Mozilla on a UNIX system.  A user
with an X console would get the present Mozilla screen.  A user with a
VT100 would get a Text screen, tossing all the graphics.  Sound should
still be possible and the java and javascript commands would just make
different things happen to try to accomplish the same goals that they
normally do.

        The GUI should be _AN_ interface, not _THE_ interface because
many tasks, at some point, can be made either graphical objects or
textual transactions and users should be able to do what works for
them.  When you think about it, that's how the world works.  Good old

Martin McCormick 405 744-7572   Stillwater, OK
OSU Center for Computing and Information services Data Communications Group

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