Cross-Post: Reddit Breaks Without Javascript
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Categories: Not an expert

Cross-Post: Reddit Breaks Without Javascript

Seems functional at first, but none of the links work and that big sidebar at the left won’t go away! reddit in late April 2018 without scripts.

Sometime in mid-April 2018, Reddit joined the crowd of sites which don’t work without Javascript. Its pages do not appear blank, but none of the links work, and the start of each line in the main part of the page is covered by an almost completely empty column at the left which cannot be removed.

A number of blog hosts have joined this trend recently. Here is Confessions of a Community College Dean at (abandoned July 2019, his essays are still posted at as of January 2022- ed.)

Confessions of a Community College Dean without scripts, Note how the body text overlaps the sidebar rather than wrapping at the end of the column. Long paragraphs extend outside the browser window entirely so that only the first 100 or so characters are visible.

Other sites appear completely blank without scripts. SquareSpace is especially egregious. Here is the blog of Aurora Simmons, a Toronto jeweller, with scripts disabled ( with scripts disabled: an ocean of whitespace and grey text with no blog visible at all
“The white space, the white space! It burns us precious!” And where are the words?

As you can see, there is no blog there for those of us who block scripts!

Reddit is very popular, and it sets many people’s expectations for a ‘mostly text’ site, so even though I do not use it much, I am very concerned.

I am sure we all know why it is important that a text-and-pictures site works without scripting, but just a reminder!

  • Downloading all of those scripts wastes bandwidth (ie. your time and your money). Not everyone lives in a big city and has a high-speed Internet connection.
  • Scripts threaten your security and privacy. Remember Flash bugs? It is easy to write Javascript which tracks everything you do in the browser: all the buttons you move your mouse over, all the things you type into a form then decide not to send, the wrong files you almost upload. Data brokers like Facebook rely on scripts to track you across the web and while you are logged out. Many advertising companies allow clients to put scripts in their adds, so all it takes is one ad containing a bad script to infect you.
  • Accessibility tools for people with disabilities often have trouble reading things generated by scripts
  • The spiders and crawlers which search engines use to index your site and help people find your stuff usually browse the raw code not the version after all the scripts have loaded.
  • HTML and CSS are quick to write and easy to maintain. Plenty of sites from the 1990s work as well as they ever did even if nobody has updated them in 10 years!
  • HTML and CSS will be legible forever, whereas scripts have a short half-life and require refactoring as standards change. Remember when there were whole sites coded in Adobe Flash?
  • Using a bunch of third-party scripts that you don’t understand to write simple HTML and CSS is ugly. Good engineering is simple and direct.

Javascript certainly has its place: interactive sites and anything to do with finance. But if people can’t see the main content of your site without enabling a dozen libraries, you are excluding many visitors.

One reason why my home on the web is here is that I have a reasonable level of control over how my site is built. When my PhD is done, I will create another site in plain HTML and CSS for long-term projects like Armour in Texts and Fashion in the Age of Datini. And I do not link to things which appear blank without scripts.

Further Reading: Maciej Ceglowski, “The Website Obesity Crisis”

Edit 2022-01-17: fixed link broken when WordPress introduced the block editor (sigh)

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4 thoughts on “Cross-Post: Reddit Breaks Without Javascript

  1. Pen Name says:

    Reddit is an un-moderated or poorly moderated cess pool in many ways.

    While reddit booted the incel nutters they still host 100s of thousands of “red pill” types who share tips on how to deceive and exploit women for sex.

    Reddit users also declared missing and already dead (4 weeks) Sunil Thopathi and the non existent Mike Mulvaney as the Boston Marathon terrorists, congratulating themselves on being ahead of the lame stream media. They created such a false news buzz that lame stream media started harassing Sunil’s family, camping out in front of their home, about their “terrorist” relative, along with the masses of people who wanted someone to blame harrassing them instead of trying to help them find the missing and already dead college student.

    “Is it a joke or something? Someone in a thread that ‘after the whole Boston marathon thing, the police won’t respond to Reddit.’ ”

    There was no Mike Mulvaney, and the mention of “M for Mike Mulvaney” on Boston Police Radio was in a context that had nothing to do with the bombing, but some reddit user wanted to be the modern equivalent of Paul Revere, spreading false news.

    Anyone who knew that story got a real laugh out of that short lived :”wisdom of the crowd” TV Series.

    1. Sean Manning says:

      I don’t like new-style social media either, but as a citizen, it is important to call out people who are breaking the Internet. And more aggressive censorship, attempting to impose small-town, Midwestern values on 8 billion people, has its downsides. I would elaborate, but not here.

      My impression that the culture of reddit is different from subredit to subredit since each has its own moderators and rules.

      Amazon wants you to enable scripts before you can read the full text of reviews, and Twitter now nags you every time you visit to enable JS instead of redirecting to a scriptless version. While reasons to buy your books from a real bookstore, and ignore that link to a twitter thread, are good things, this is becoming an epidemic.

  2. a says:

    There’s a Firefox addon called NoScript that allows you to selectively allow individual scripts. Sometimes takes a while to find the one you need to make it work. And you can “temporarily” activate them.

    1. Sean Manning says:

      Hi a, yes, I use NoScript. Whitelisting some of the sites I visit regularly makes a lot of things easier. But sometimes you enable one library, and it calls in three others, each of which calls several others, and it turns into a lot of work just to click a button or get a store to accept your money 🙁 It is hard to figure out which do something useful, and which are just trying to spy on you or create some annoying animation in the background.

      An online store with an image of a row of knives in the background, a series of icons at the top, and a large orange button labeled OUR PRODUCTS in the centre.  Clicking this button does nothing unless ten third-party Javascript libraries are enabled.

      This online store calls ten Javascript libraries, and the big OUR PRODUCTS button does not work unless you enable the right one … and it belongs to a one-man business so they don’t exactly have a team to study analytics.

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