Internet via Email

Knowing there’s a real risk of this blog turning into “old man yells at cloud1”, here are few thoughts, sort of connected.

First there was Dan Frommer talking about his first year of running a subscription newsletter:

Social media continues to strengthen direct relationships between readers and writers. The internet has made discovery easier for quality, niche publications. (Though that is probably the biggest hurdle.) Email remains an amazing delivery and distribution method for timely written content.

Here’s John Gruber’s take on this:

And readers love newsletters. Websites are getting harder and harder to read. Paywalls forget who you are on a seemingly weekly basis. Websites put interstitial popovers directly over the content you’re trying to read. Videos are set to autoplay. How many times are you supposed to tell the same goddamn website whether you’ll accept their fucking cookies? It’s like they’re purposefully making it hard to read. Newsletters have none of that. They’re just easy and fun to read. The web can and should be that way too, but all too often it’s not.

It’s a fair point - websites are, for the most part, terrible content delivery mechanisms. Which makes me think that maybe RMS, as shitty as he could be, might have hit on something when he talked about the way he consumes the internet

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see https://git.savannah.gnu.org/git/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

Incidentally, I’ve recently moved my RSS from Inoreader to Feedbin and one of the features that drew me away was the newsletter-to-rss gateway - you get a unique email address with which you can sign up for newsletters and they automatically get created as RSS feeds for you. Which means you can read the content in RSS2. So I’ve spent my day unsubscribing with my email address and re-subscribing with my Feedbin address and my email inbox feels so much lighter and fresher and how an email inbox should feel3.


  1. :goodjoke:
  2. which is how the internet was going until Google Reader killed RSS
  3. I have a strict policy regarding notifications on my phone - no notifications unless they came from a human being directly to me. I don’t see why my email should have a different policy.