Yet Another Front in the War to Make the Web (Almost) Unusable


Sign me up for this Felix Salmon rant:

It might have been the Slate redesign which pushed me over the edge, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just PTSD from Reuters Next. But at this point I will seriously donate a substantial amount of money to anybody who can build a browser plugin which automatically kills all persistent navbars, or “sticky navs”, as they’re also known.

It’s impossible to identify who started this trend, but it has become the single most annoying thing on the news web, recently overtaking even the much-loathed pagination for that title. If you’re reading a story on Pando Daily, then no matter what page you’re on, no matter where you are in the story, the top of your browser window always looks like this:

Click the link for examples if you’re not sure what this is all about. But Felix is right: It’s annoying. It’s evil. It needs to stop. Felix explains why in his post, but what makes navbars even worse is that they’re sometimes paired up with bizarro code that makes it difficult or impossible to cut and paste text using the normal tools that we’ve all used forever. Instead you have to go through the navbar in some weird way. There have been a few cases where I was so flummoxed by what they expected me to do that I finally just went into the page source and copied from there. So far, no one has figured out how to take over a text editor, so that still works.

(And while we’re at it, why do so many sites make it so damn hard to embed their videos? They usually have an embed option, so obviously they want you to embed their videos. But the code they provide is all but impossible to vary in even the slightest way, like aligning it on the right instead of the center, or something like that. I just went through an experience this morning trying to embed a PolitiFact video that almost makes me believe in ghosts. Just stop it, folks.)

This is all part of an ongoing evolution of the web that seems to be based on a desire to make the browsing experience as annoying as possible without quite going over the edge where people just give up on your site. A site that’s a micron short of that is ideal. You want your readers tearing their hair out, but not going ballistic enough to quit entirely. As more and more sites go down this road, it makes the web more a blood pressure raising machine than an information source. But it was nice while it lasted.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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