I’ve set up a Gemini server for johan.hal.se! You can check it out if you want: gemini://johan.hal.se. I looked into writing a Middleman extension for automatically copying the markdown files to .gmi format and mirroring the site there, but gave up pretty quickly. It’s all done by hand now. To serve it all I’m running Agate which was a breeze to set up, certs and all. After getting everything running I noticed my beard growth had accelerated by 5 nanometres per second.
Yeah but I’m sort of on board with what Gemini wants to accomplish! Thinking about browser diversity always sets my pulse racing a little — building a new browser today is, in a word, impossible. The spec is vast and malevolent and growing by millions of words a year. Reading it (and attempting to take in what it actually says) would hilariously age an average human in seconds, like in The Last Crusade:
Even big and well-funded teams like those at Microsoft and Opera have given up in recent years, and Mozilla seems to be circling the drain — which means in a few years we’ll be stuck with Chromium forever, stewarded by one of the worst surveillance capitalists around. So the nerds said “let’s just clear the desk” and Gemini was born. There’s a lot to like! There are browsers out there written by a single person, and you can have an experience that’s end-to-end powered by Rust. I’m using a Linux browser called Castor which is Rust and GTK, and Agate is also written in Rust. Cool.
If we’re being fully honest it’s a little too minimalist for me, I think. It’s barely usable even for blogs: you can’t have inline images, which means no fun digressions like my Indiana Jones lark up there. No explanatory charts. Links go on their own line, can’t have those inline either, so if you want to link something in context you either do it footnote-style or break up your paragraph. I’ve seen it suggested that this could be mitigated by clients: maybe your Gemini user agent could detect a link to an image and show it inline based on a pref, maybe it could detect a footnote-style link and put that inline… but, uh, guys, the ground is shaking? Looks like it’s the metal hooves of Irony thudding towards us at pace, ready to bowl us over in a cloud of Alanis Morrissette! Dang.
Full circle, eh
Gemini seems to have its most hardcore following with the Old Breed. They pine for their NNTP servers and HAM radios. Fucking Gopher is namedropped in the first bullet point in the first paragraph on the official site, which should tell you something. So we can expect a singularly inflexible spec, with angry white men in unkempt beards guarding it like a sacred relic. Which means it will 100% be taken from them if it ever becomes popular.
Look, it’s what happened to the web: a client will provide the things people want (like, say, inline images or forms) and the neckbeards will let out a great anguished howl, rallying zealously around the spec, but it will all be for nothing. The people have spoken, and the people wanted
<marquee>. And then someone adds scriptability and back into the toilet we flush. All of this has been, and all of this will be again. Not that Gemini will ever be popular, but, you know.
Spec issues aside though: the Web of 2021 feels centralized, untenable, and overstretched. And there’s a tiny groundswell of apps and ideas that want to wrest back control from the leeches of Big Tech. We should do what we can to arm those rebels, take part in the discussions in those smoky back rooms of the Internet, and see what comes out the other side. Even if things just continue apace, being part of it feels cathartic. Visit my Gemini site today!