Bringing cyberspace down to Earth
July 17, 2020 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Solderpunk named the Gemini project after the American space race program because, like the space program, it has (not too small, not too large) intermediate goals. What goals? The Gemini protocol and the Gemini document format aim to bridge the gap between the austere Gopher protocol (previously) and the modern multi-megabyte web (previously).

How does it do that? Gemini serves hypertext documents (very lightweight markup) privately (TLS is a mandatory part of the specification) over the internet. Streaming video? Nah, just text. Pop-over ads? None; there’s just text. JavaScript? No—just text for people to read. Tracking cookies? Of course not!

The Gemini project is new (2019) but maturing, with several servers and browsers for popular internet platforms. There’s already a search engine and a web proxy if you don’t yet have a client.
posted by Monochrome (13 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
This looks great, thanks! I want to read and make content this way. I’m sure there are all kinds of technical and social implications but I just want the internet to suck less; it’s really gone downhill the past few decades.

(Seems like this would suit Metafilter just fine right?)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:29 PM on July 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm old enough to remember the "meteor shower" Mozilla, and this smells like ... the meteor shower Mozilla. I read the FAQ and I'm just not feelin' the need for this.

You can try to convince all the content-creators out there to distribute using gemini:// but it's not like there are too many content creators. It's more like there are too many "content" creators, and the real problem is not enough content creators, and too many freeloaders, rent-seekers and hangers-on.

I think a modestly-motivated content-consumer could achieve most of the value of this with a browser plug-in that removes most request and response headers. I get that tracking and snooping are a giant problem, but I think the solution is to break, gaslight or chaff the snoopers, not set up a new place for them to try to seek rent.
posted by spacewrench at 6:41 PM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

[Gemini] is not intended to replace Gopher or HTTP, but to co-exist with them.

Personally, I've used various browser plug-ins to break most the web on purpose ever since it started sucking. That approach works to a point but it's tedious and frustrating: you either use a system that's bloated and corrupted and messy and annoying and full of ne'er-do-wells, or you use a system that's less bloated and corrupt and has less foul play, but is mostly broken and dysfunctional. I for one would prefer to cut to the chase and use a protocol that doesn't allow that bullshit by design, even if it never gets adopted by all the websites I never visit after discovering they are too broken/painful for me to use. (Also see section 2.5 of the FAQ, which explains this better than I)
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:12 PM on July 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

That’s a great point. Gemini doesn’t have to be everything to everyone. It’s great to see websites mirror content to Gemini-space, just as MeFi has their Gopher mirror. A user created an unofficial mirror.
posted by Monochrome at 8:11 PM on July 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

There's a lot to appreciate about this project even if, for me personally, it's still a little too austere to fully love. For blogging and stuff, I can see it filling a niche. And hey, from this music review capsule I learned that there's a new Hum album?!
posted by wordless reply at 8:39 PM on July 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm glad to see this on MetaFilter. I've been peeking in on gemini ever since I heard about it a few months ago.

If you want to experiment with your own gemini space, maybe check out, which is offering quick and free and easy gemini hosting.
posted by Lirp at 9:33 PM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is demand for this stuff: check your browser for Reader Mode.

This looks like it's good for lightweight transitions between steps in a work application, too, noticeable when you send your webapp a page with links to the only available next steps from the current one (the ugly name is hypertext-as-the-engine-of-application-state, you don't want to know the relevant W3C working group's name).
posted by k3ninho at 2:40 AM on July 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

But is there a fully immersive virtual reality headset mode?
posted by sammyo at 4:51 AM on July 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

🎶 while my RSS gently weeps 🎶
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:07 AM on July 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I love this, because I feel like when I bookmark the music reviews or similar sites that I won't one day come back to seven layers of mailing list solicitations and unreadable text. I loved gopher, too. I'm also visually impaired and bounce off many probably-great websites because content is very hard to find in a predictably readable form. (PS <3 mefi)

But - and hear me out - this is an opportunity to clearly define an author-monetization plan into the protocol so it doesn't become the "reason" nobody can move from free labor-of-love drives to compensation for their content.

Sure, you can implement a membership and authorization system using the client certificate demand section of the protocol, but that moves all the pricing/value conversion stuff to pollute the application layer with a thousand confusing, poorly implemented half-solutions.

Sure, you can deliver some binary format with copy protection bound to the client certificate, but that carries all the suck of content protection and stifles sharing and (positive) virality.

I want something hyperlight like this to succeed. I don't make content for a living but know that for many technologies the gateway to wider adoption is some form of monetizability. Maybe the protocol can make it easier to monetize consistently than "free" and littered with advertising-equivalent content. (Imagine a chain of Gemini "click through" content to eventually see what you wanted.)

HTTP has payment layers that nobody uses and weren't fully developed - partly because the technology for secure value transfer were very early as well. We've learned so much since then, maybe making flexible creator compensation and transparent pricing part of a protocol that can deftly organize access and delivery can help this approach not go the way of RSS and Atom.
posted by abulafa at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

abulafa that’s a really interesting point. I didn’t know there was an unused payment layer in http either.

The creator of Gemini seems very interested in and open to feedback and collaboration, you might reach out to him to discuss this? It might be a non-starter but I think I agree with you that this is an opportunity and that a lot of what sucks about the web is related to the “free” content model.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2020

I hope the gemini server is called korbind
posted by Sockdown at 6:46 AM on July 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

For those interested, HTTP 402 Payment Required - I can't find the interview I read about this early on but this thread gives a few examples related more to cloud resource management.

Great suggestion to contact the author - I had not started from a presumption they would be receptive, that's on me.
posted by abulafa at 7:10 AM on July 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older 'How long does it take to wear down a mountain?'   |   I have SO NOT BEEN HACKED Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments