I’m a big fan of reader view in my browser. In the wayback, a developer frustrated with all the design cruft — pop-ups, pop-overs, delayed pop-ups, scrolling-triggered pop-ups, fixed elements, title bars, social media icons, navigation controls, cookie consents, headers, footers, subscription pop-ups, and autoplay video windows — on web sites wrote a bookmarklet to try to display just the main text of the site. They expanded it into a browser add-on for Firefox. Mozilla then made it a native feature of Firefox and Apple added it to Safari in version 5. I believe that just about all browsers except Google Chrome now offer some variant of reader view as a native feature.

Not surprisingly, since it has the side effect of hiding most ads, Google has not implemented reader view in Chrome in a usable fashion. You can enable a reader view “experimental feature” in the hidden options that then gives you an annoying pop-up whenever a web page loads that lets you choose reader view if you act fast enough. So, a screen-obscuring pop-up to possibly let you enable a feature that you probably want mainly to get rid of annoying screen-obscuring pop-ups. If you’re using Google Chrome as your browser, I’ll leave it to you whether you want to bring this annoyance in your life, or install one of the several Chrome add-ons that implement a reader view, or just switch to a browser whose reason for existing isn’t to force-feed you ads.

I started using reader view long ago, at first occasionally when I would encounter a page that I had trouble reading because of all the garbage, or silver Comic Sans text on a pewter background, or what have you. As the web has enshittified, I have come to rely on reader view more and more. Particularly on mobile devices (I like smaller phones) where all the cruft can leave you with very little readable area on the average overly-ornamented, JavaScript-encumbered site, I find it indispensable. It’s also a bonus that reader view bypasses some paywalls and skips a lot of ads.

Web developers: Instead of getting angry that a feature exists which hides all the evidence of your flashy design genius, try enjoying a few sites by using reader view and see if you can learn something about making sites pleasant to read, instead of just serving as a showcase for your prodigious (but annoying) JS-fu.


addendum 2024-05-02T17:21-07:00

When I tried reader view on this page, I noticed that in Firefox the external link icons displayed huge in reader view. I don’t like those inline SVG icons anyway, so I poked around and discovered that in the quartz system I use to host these pages, you can go to quartz/plugins/transformers/links.ts and set externalLinkIcon to false and the icons will go away.

screenshot of where to kill the quartz icons

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