The plain text internet is coming


From the beauty of a simple website to the new laws that will shape the tech industry for years to come, your five-minute guide to the best Protocol (and the internet) from the week.

Keep it simple, idiot

The web is full of garbage. This is so obvious that I hardly need to say it. But I will: Pop-ups, autoplay videos, cookie banners, persistent calls to sign up, coupon offers, “Don’t forget to subscribe!” reminders above the other “Don’t forget to subscribe!” reminders, inline ads that slow down a page, too many viewers also slow down a page… you get the idea. For some good and some bad reasons, much of the internet has become completely useless.

Plain Text Sports is not like any of these sites. Created by developer Paul Julius Martinez (who you may know all over the web as CodeIsTheEnd), the site looks more like something out of the 1970s, a wall of monospaced plain text with ASCII-art boxes surrounding real-time scores for all the programs. professional sports games are happening right now. It has no pictures, no pop-ups, no followers. It loads practically instantly, even on a bad connection. I’ve been refreshing it obsessively these past few weeks, the end of NBA seasons and the start of March Madness. Not only is this a useful site for sports fans, but it also feels like a harbinger of things to come.

Frustrated with the state of the internet, Martinez started working on Plain Text Sports. In early 2021, he was in Wisconsin, spending part of the pandemic on his family’s farm. He was trying to watch the Packers game, but “the internet reception is not good,” he said, “so I checked the score on my phone, I checked ESPN.” Even that page with all the ads, trackers and JavaScript doesn’t load. He was already thinking about a very basic sports website, but this made up his mind.

Plain Text Sports was originally just for NBA scores, but Martinez is systematically adding other sports. Each requires some work, as Martinez has to teach his system how to receive data, what the scores mean, and how the various APIs work. But he said the site more or less ran on its own once it was up and running. It recently added the ability to go back and forth in time, so you can see upcoming games or rewind a season.

There are many other things that Martinez could add to Plain Text Sports, even things that would make it a “better” program. Maybe it should have user accounts, I said, so visitors can customize their homepage? Maybe you’ll have links to tickets and earn some money! Martinez just nodded. “I’m a software engineer who obsessively reads Hacker News every day,” he said, “but I’m also kind of a Luddite.” He hates smart TVs, he said, because he hates scrolling through menus when he wants to watch TV. He loves that Plain Text Sports is simple. “No cookie banner, no GDPR banner, no banner asking you to donate.”

The downside, of course, is that Plain Text Sports won’t make Martinez any money. For now, he’s okay with that. Because the site is so simple and low-bandwidth, he says, his Amazon CDN account is only $50 a month, and it’s mostly a fun project anyway. His success may change that: After recently hitting the front page of Hacker News and being featured on Daring Fireball, he says the site’s traffic has increased 100-fold overnight, with about 100,000 home page downloads per day. (That’s all the analytics it has, because again, simplicity.) It’s gone down since then, but it’s still 10 times what it was a few weeks ago. At some point he may have to post an ad on the site. But it would probably be plain text.

The site’s success got Martinez thinking about what else could benefit from the Plain Text treatment. He’s thinking about Plain Text Stocks or maybe Plain Text Stonks, though the latter is better suited for a chaotic and hyper-monetized site instead of something simple and sparse. He wants to do Plain Text treatment for European football and cricket. “There are probably a billion people in India who don’t have great internet service,” he said, “and they love cricket!”

Plain Text Sports is certainly not the first of its kind. Simple, single-purpose websites have long been a staple of the web, from Did Duke Win to Busy Simulator, Netflix Codes to All Down, or Just Me. But Plain Text Sports manages to be simple on the front end with surprising complexity on the back end, making sure the entire world of sports is represented on that page in real time.

In general, we’re starting to see developers and designers rebel against the overall loading of the web, as sites and apps shed their pains and difficulties for things that load faster and work more intuitively. Social networks are bringing back timelines; reading modes are now ubiquitous in browsers. Even programs like Obsidian, a favorite among productivity obsessives, are primarily plain text-based.

They don’t look much alike, but that’s kind of the point.

– David Pearce (e-mail | twitter)

You tell us

We asked you for your favorite underrated/unknown apps and services and you answered! Here are some of our favorite answers:

“Privacy.com creates 1-time credit cards for questionable merchants. Meandmyid.com creates disposable email attachments to manage and pinpoint the origin of spam. Favorite game: Curvy.” – Chris

“He was Outline.com allows you to read an article online by removing all the extra ads, banners, notifications and other Internet nonsense. “Unfortunately, the site has been down for weeks.” – Sam Rothermel (Sam, you should try Reader Mode!)

Thanks to everyone who referred us to the Reddit thread that got 13,400 answers to a simple question: “What’s the coolest website you’ve ever visited that no one knows about?” This is a gold mine.

A MESSAGE FROM CLARID

“To drive more revenue for your sales teams, start with the customer. Understand what your customers need and make sure those needs align with clearly defined internal success criteria. Build trust across teams that what you’re selling to the customer is being delivered.” – Pilar Schenk, Cisco CEO of Collaboration

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The best of the protocol

Google and Spotify’s app store deal could boost the mobile app economy by Janko Roettgers and Nick Statt

  • Spotify’s Android app no ​​longer requires you to pay for a subscription through the Play Store. It’s a small change, but it’s a big deal, and the most significant sign that Google is changing its mind about how payments and commissions work on the platform. You can bet regulators and Apple are watching closely.

Europe’s plan to curb Big Tech will require Apple to open iMessage by Ben Brody

  • The other big regulatory news of the week was the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which has the potential to upend many of the economics and structures of the tech industry. But forcing messaging companies to interoperability may be the biggest change — and the most complicated to pull off.

Game developers say the four-day workweek saved their studio by Nick Statt

  • “Maybe Fridays…Always?” files. The games industry is notorious for putting employees through terrible hours and feeling overwhelmed at the end of a project, but more and more studios are saying that fewer hours may be the most productive idea in the long run.

Microsoft claims it was fired by whistleblower Anna Kramer for exposing corruption

  • Tales of bribery and corruption and the revelations of a whistleblower who go nowhere. Where do you go when official channels don’t work? If you are Yasser Elabd, you tell your story on your own terms and make sure you don’t get overlooked.

Platforms attract creators with cash. LinkedIn thinks they should learn to be creative first by Sarah Roach

  • LinkedIn creators: They are a thing! And LinkedIn cultivates them, but not by dropping piles of money. The company offers resources and training to help people navigate the creative economy and lifestyle, because it’s rarely as glamorous or easy as creators make it out to be.

My worst employee: Skilled and smart, but bad at her job, Allison Levitsky

  • What do you do when your new employee just can’t get it, no matter how hard you try to get them on board? In our latest series, bosses tell us stories about recruitment gone wrong and how everyone got out unscathed.

The best of everything else

How Big Tech Lost Its Antitrust Battle With Europe – Ars Technica

  • Why is the EU leading so much tech regulation? And why couldn’t the tech industry manage it in the way it managed to both shake up and slow down government in the US? Here’s a good look at how it went down after the Digital Markets Act.

A Latecomer’s Guide to Cryptocurrency — The New York Times

  • An extensive, multi-part series that serves as a useful resource for anyone new to the world of blockchain, altcoins, and Web3. Also a handy link to send to all the family and friends who send you questions about DAOs and why Elon Musk tweets pictures of shiba inus.
  • But you should also read The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto Edited by a group of researchers and experts: It critiques and expands on many points in the series.

Lapsus$: How a Neat Extortion Gang Became One of the Most Prolific Hacking Groups – Vice

  • Lapsus$ has been in the news a lot in recent weeks, mainly for hacking Okta, Microsoft, Nvidia and several other companies. The group is reportedly run by a teenager and has been unusually successful in gaining access to highly sensitive information. What does he want? Well, that’s pretty obvious.

How SiriusXM bought and broke the beloved podcast network – The Verge

  • The podcasting land grab is still very much underway, and while Sirius isn’t as covered as Spotify or Amazon, it’s as lucrative and ambitious a player as any. But there’s one exception: His big-dollar purchases aren’t going so well. And it turns out that marrying old radio with new sound technology is more difficult than it seems.

Is Russia’s biggest tech company too big to fail? – Wired

  • Yandex is not only one of the largest companies and platforms in Russia: it is one of the most interesting and important search engines on the Internet (among many other things). As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, life is getting really tough for Yandex and its founder.

The 50 Best Science Fiction Books of All Time – Esquire

  • You should bookmark this list because, first, it’s a great list of great sci-fi books. But it’s also a list of “stories that inspired technologists to create all the products you use,” from “The Snow Crash” to “The Time Machine” to “Red Mars” to “The Three-Body Problem.” You can’t go wrong spending the weekend with anything on this list.

A MESSAGE FROM CLARID

“Trying to make each deal as big as possible often adds complexity and lengthens sales cycles. To accelerate growth, salespeople need to focus on landing faster, then scaling, and scaling again. Getting customers on board with your solution sooner helps solve their initial problems. then you can grow together.” – Michael Megerian, Chief Revenue Officer, Yello

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Have a nice day, see you tomorrow.





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