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Greasemonkey, Ajax, and the future of the web
May 10, 2005 12:59 AM   Subscribe

The web gets mashed up.
posted by Tlogmer (49 comments total)

 
Oops! You accidentally linked to kottke.org.
posted by ericost at 1:12 AM on May 10, 2005


Hardy har.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:20 AM on May 10, 2005


I think it's because I'm not a web coder, but I'm totally lost. I'm not seeing the connection between greasemonkey and kotke's use of Ajax.
posted by shmegegge at 1:33 AM on May 10, 2005


Ah, Kottke is retro now. It's fine.

Greasemonkey is really interesting, I think. But it opens up a discussion I've been bothered about for ages - the growing gap between the really savvy web users and the plain old web users. For someone with a pimped up Firefox install, Greasemonkey, ad-blockers, flash blockers, spam filters and spyware free machines, the net is a completely different place to the one found by your average IE using office bod.

There's no value judgement here - I'm just interested in the effects this might have. I mean, does anyone professionally design sites or web apps whilst using a spyware-ridden IE5.5 using Windows 98 install? Is there a problem there?
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 1:37 AM on May 10, 2005


shmegegge: There's no connection, particularly, except that they both change the way the web works, or have the potential to. (I also found the post on Greasemonkey through Kottke's new Waxy syndicator but couldn't think of an elegant way to indicate that in the post.)
posted by Tlogmer at 1:38 AM on May 10, 2005


Seriously, what's a mashup?
posted by gsb at 1:40 AM on May 10, 2005


OK, sorry, I found a definition.
posted by gsb at 1:47 AM on May 10, 2005


There's no value judgement here - I'm just interested in the effects this might have.

Effects? It's obvious. Watch for something called ActiveWeb(TM) that's very much like GreaseMonkey from MS in about 1-2 years.

The advanced users are Microsoft's R&D department.
posted by weston at 1:57 AM on May 10, 2005


ActiveWeb(tm) - Leverage the Power of ActiveWebScriptlets(tm) to Enhance Your Web Productivity(tm)

Yeah, you're probably right.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 2:01 AM on May 10, 2005


word. that works. I really need to install greasemonkey. no idea why I haven't yet.
posted by shmegegge at 2:01 AM on May 10, 2005


Well, ActiveWeb was actually SmartTags; MS actually came up with this long before Greasemonkey or Firefox actually: the issue was trust more so than implementation.

As for Greasemonkey, it looks cool (and if the BitTorrent-links-in-Metacritic-or-Amazon idea that the first link suggests gets implemented I will be installing it in a nanosecond) but it's no more than end-user Web Services, plain and simple. Enterprise Web services have more-or-less caught on, but not so for consumer apps (with notable exceptions like iTMS, Amazon and Google's apps).
posted by costas at 2:15 AM on May 10, 2005


Greasemonkey is important, I think, because it's distributed -- it's a whole network of user-made javascript files that can overlay the more traditional network of html files. Smart Tags, on the other hand, was centralized, and therefore not terribly useful or exciting.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:23 AM on May 10, 2005


I'm totally hoiking kottke's code.

Say that 5 times fast.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:27 AM on May 10, 2005


Ajax is Javascript, too; I guess that's an important connection I overlooked.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:29 AM on May 10, 2005


Wow. A Javascript pulldown menu. Never seen that before. Oh wait, this one is buggy. That's cool.

"The line-height on the pulldown is a little bit screwy on IE on the PC and there's an odd flicker on Firefox on the PC...any ideas?"

Yeah. Don't quit your day job.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:42 AM on May 10, 2005


And don't forget our own MetaFilter-specific Greasemonkey user scripts.
posted by taz at 2:52 AM on May 10, 2005


The point isn't the menu itself; it's the way it drops content in.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:53 AM on May 10, 2005


I used and disliked greasemonkey. It's just too cumbersome a process. I say to developers, please save me the hassle, and just make an extension to do the thing. It was impossible to debug if I couldn't get it working.
posted by raaka at 2:55 AM on May 10, 2005


The point isn't the menu itself; it's the way it drops content in.

Which isn't any better than just creating a genuine link (via dropdown or otherwise) to a page that shows the given content. As kottke says, it's not linkable, bookmarkable, or Google-able (though there are permalinks on a post-by-post basis) and — unless I'm missing something — doesn't provide any functionality other than kottke claiming to reinvent the web.
posted by rafter at 3:26 AM on May 10, 2005


Yeah. Don't quit your day job.

He already did.

It's just too cumbersome a process.

Boy, I disagree. I just installed and started using it a few days ago and just wrote my first script yesterday.
Easy to install scripts, easy to write scripts, easy to find scripts.
But not for everyone, I'm sure.
posted by cori.schlegel at 3:40 AM on May 10, 2005


Where did Kottke claim he reinvented the web? I claim that his ajax implementation is a highly visible example of cool things coming down the pipeline.
posted by Tlogmer at 3:56 AM on May 10, 2005


I say to developers, please save me the hassle, and just make an extension to do the thing.

Nice thing about Greasemonkey is you can wait until someone slaps together a Greasemonkey script for you as well. It simply opens up another channel for browser mods, ones which are also easier to create than extensions (arguably, I suppose: IANADe veloper).
posted by sninky-chan at 4:13 AM on May 10, 2005


Civil_Disobedient:

Wow. A Javascript pulldown menu. Never seen that before. Oh wait, this one is buggy. That's cool.
...
Yeah. Don't quit your day job.

Mee-yow.
posted by shmegegge at 4:19 AM on May 10, 2005


No really, what's wrong with a link? The web's built on links. They work.

I see this as a new and exciting way to have drop-down menus that obscure content when I accidentally mouse over them. Wheee.
posted by squidlarkin at 5:37 AM on May 10, 2005


Well, it breaks the back button, so that's one difference from a real link.
posted by smackfu at 6:38 AM on May 10, 2005


squidlarkin:

The people above have properly stated this better than I'm about to, but:

Ajax is being used by Kottke as a better way to manage a large archive of material which traditional blogging methods, especially those using apps like MovableType et al, haven't really addressed well.

His prime example is looking for material related to specific topics (movies, books, etc) on his blog. Originally, you had to click on the archives link, then scour his entries month by month looking at every topic to see if it was what you were interested in. Now, you can just click certain categories he's created and read whatever he's said about books more easily.

Basically, Ajax creates the categorized information for him on the server, which he then accesses in a really easy way, instead of just creating, say, a movies page which he has to constantly update, and things like that. There are other ways to do this, and it's been done before, but he's found a way that he feels is especially easy for bloggers who use Movable Type and other blogging apps like it.
posted by shmegegge at 6:43 AM on May 10, 2005


Kottke is the new flash.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 6:53 AM on May 10, 2005


Basically, Ajax creates the categorized information for him on the server, which he then accesses in a really easy way, instead of just creating, say, a movies page which he has to constantly update, and things like that.

Granted, I do not use MovableType, so if I'm wrong just tell me — but it seems to me that MovableType "creates the categorized information for him on the server" while Ajax only "accesses it in a really easy way." Given Kottke's install (he is running a concurrent MT blog for each category, right?), would it not be far simpler for him and other MT users to create a literal link to the content? This might not be as flashy as Ajax, but would also work without breaking hyperlinking, back-buttons, searches, or bookmarks.

I do not dispute Kottke's point about archives pages sucking, but that critique isn't at all novel. I've had "filters" (favorites, categories, recently commented) on my photoblog for some time, and the vast majority of blogs have had category links (i.e. "Posted to: work internet musings") even longer.

These systems may still have room to grow, but Kottke certainly isn't improving them. All he is doing is taking an existing structure (post categories) and removing the single most useful part (namely, the URL).
posted by rafter at 7:28 AM on May 10, 2005


"Make no mistake, I like money. I like money a lot. In fact, go ahead and send me money, tons of it. I'll swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck and spit out the occasional gold watch.

"But money does something to you, when you start to get it in tiny amounts from your site. It makes you change; it makes you look at things a little harder, consider things a little differently. Should I discuss this subject to get more hits? Should I not talk about this subject because it'll drive my page ranking down and cause less donations? Suddenly, you're no longer running a site... you're running a storefront, a dingy amateurish storefront with a few glittering items in the window desperately trying to drag folks off the street long enough for it to register with the ever-seeing camera you've installed that will throw out coins if the person stays in your store long enough.

"No, thanks.

"There is a plugin program for the Firefox web browser called Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is going to shoot a lot of this approach to a website in the head. Greasemonkey shoots out a tendril into your dingy storefront, smashes the camera, rips the advertisements in half and grabs your shiny baubles, all in about a millisecond and while other tendrils are doing the same thing all up and down the street."
posted by jscott at 7:31 AM on May 10, 2005


Use the Greasemonkey Compiler to turn any script into a stand-alone extension for Firefox.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:33 AM on May 10, 2005


dflemingdotorg: "Kottke is the new flash."

earth 1 or earth 2?
posted by eckeric at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2005


eckeric: I knew someone was going to do that. Kudos.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2005


Here's the previous MetaFilter discussion on Greasemonkey which would make this thread a double post if not for the link to Kottke's use of Ajax, which is sort of like pointing to a wheel and saying "Look, someone invented a circle."
posted by VulcanMike at 8:42 AM on May 10, 2005


Or perhaps pointing to Huffington Post and saying "Look at this innovative cool blogging thing."
posted by VulcanMike at 8:45 AM on May 10, 2005


"There is a plugin program for the Firefox web browser called Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is going to shoot a lot of this approach to a website in the head. Greasemonkey shoots out a tendril into your dingy storefront, smashes the camera, rips the advertisements in half and grabs your shiny baubles, all in about a millisecond and while other tendrils are doing the same thing all up and down the street."

I thought people stopped talking like this when the bubble broke back in 2001. I guess there's always some new snake oil, though.
posted by xmutex at 8:46 AM on May 10, 2005


Dive into Greasemonkey. Monju already beat me to the compiler. Also, there's already an IE extension in the works (not from MS) to allow Greasemonkey-like scripts. I doubt it will accept Moz-based ones, but it's coming before IE7. Which does give it some lag time, I suppose.
posted by yerfatma at 9:54 AM on May 10, 2005


Use the Greasemonkey Compiler to turn any script into a stand-alone extension for Firefox.

Why would one do this? Being able to install and uninstall scripts without restarting Firefox is seems like a feature.
posted by mendel at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2005


IS SEEMS LIKE. augh. Maybe I should read my own post on preview too!
posted by mendel at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2005


The pulldown doesn't even accomplish its stated purpose: browsing the things he's written in the past. If you select any category, you only get pages dating back till last month.

That's ignoring the tremendous idiocy of a mouseover pulldown menu.

Here's a brilliant idea: someone make a Greasemonkey script that converts the pulldown into a list of regular links.
posted by breath at 3:30 PM on May 10, 2005


I'm getting posts going back to 2003 (50 Random Posts netted me one from January 29, 2002). So is it the mouseover part you don't like, or the pulldown menu part?
posted by skoosh at 4:23 PM on May 10, 2005


Ajax is good, however, I wouldn't take that on trust from some Bay Area anal retentive who rates films out of one hundred...

I love the fact he gives both The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy 75/100...
posted by runkelfinker at 4:52 PM on May 10, 2005


Yeah, so the 50 random posts option gets you stuff from the past. Great. Maybe I'll read the bus schedule by putting it through a shredder, too.

While I'm shitting on Kottke here, I'd like to express my hatred for people talking about their computer troubles or, worse, asking for computer help on their blogs.
posted by breath at 4:57 PM on May 10, 2005


Best line: "... in the familiar kottke.org format."

WOW THANKS! .. What a waste of time.
posted by blacklite at 5:06 PM on May 10, 2005


"Why would one do this? Being able to install and uninstall scripts without restarting Firefox i[t] seems like a feature".

You can think of a Greasemonkey user script as a security-limited, more accessible (in terms of necessary experience) extension.

You can develop a user script until you start bumping limits of what you can do in the page context, and then use the compiler to hop over to writing a full-fledged extension.

Why would a non-developer do this? Only because a really strong voice has said: "If you're making user scripts but want to simplify installation for users who might not have Greasemonkey installed...".
posted by jdunck at 10:29 PM on May 10, 2005


I've slept on this one, and I've woken up utterly sceptical. If - and it's a big if - Greasemonkey-alike technologies start seriously denting online operations' bottom lines, then they'll get simply circumvent the problem by circumventing the Web browser. PokerRoom.com, Skype, Steam et al all have their own desktop clients, I don't see a problem with Amazon, eBay and the rest doing that as well...
posted by runkelfinker at 2:33 AM on May 11, 2005


As far as I understand Greasemonkey (not that much, admittedly), Amazon et al could flummox it just by changing their html structure frequently. They could do it programmatically, generating randomly-slightly-different-in-execution-but-identical-in-appearence pages on-the-fly, if they had to. The best uses of greasemonkey will probably be in bootstrapping mediocre free applications into really good ones.
posted by Tlogmer at 3:33 AM on May 11, 2005


If you're into the whole greasemonkey thing, check out platypus!, which allows you to pretty easily rearrange/delete parts of a web page and then save it to a greasemonkey script.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 11:44 PM on May 11, 2005


Flickr is moving from Flash to Ajax
posted by Tlogmer at 1:00 AM on May 12, 2005


> Flickr is moving from Flash to Ajax

That's great news. Apparently the Lickr Greasmonkey script may have contributed to the planned change. So that's a good argument for the "bootstrapping mediocre free applications into really good ones" point.
posted by Turtle at 1:56 AM on May 12, 2005


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