[tech] [spec] On extending gemini

Michael Lazar lazar.michael22 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 21 05:23:15 GMT 2021

I feel like I should say something as the author of the controversial
gemini favicon RFC [0].

This comment was posted earlier today by ddevault on the Amfora issue
tracker [1].

> Every gemini page shall complete in a single gemini request. Please
> do not send extra requests to my server, opt-in or not. Gemini is
> not the web and adding flashy features and new standards is
> decidedly un-gemini.
> I might update my server software to automatically blackhole any IP
> address which tries to request a favicon file.

And continuing in the following comment (after makeworld expressed
some reservations).

> This is the only means we have of self regulation. I'll ask nicely
> first but ultimately I'll do what I have to in order to preserve
> Gemini's simplicity and utility as a small internet protocol.
> Do not. Extend. Gemini.
> Period.

This is disgraceful, shameless intimidation.

Note the deliberate timing of when this issue was raised.
gemini://srht.site was announced just a few hours earlier and the
obvious expectation is that ddevault will soon host a significant
portion of gemini capsules in the wild. He now has the power he
needs to make demands of other gemini developers.

The threat isn’t to blackhole all requests to /favicon.txt, which
might have been considered reasonable. No, the thread is to blackhole
the IP address of every amfora user, cutting them off from a large
swath of gemini and thereby crippling the client. Destroying the
hundreds of hours that makeworld has no doubt spent building up his
software and community. Unless he submits, unwavering, to ddevault’s
ultimatum to "fix" his software.

And it worked.

Think carefully about the consequences of using gemini://srht.site.

Now, switching gears to rant about gemini more broadly. For context,
I was one of the earliest adopters of gemini, although I don’t have
any ties to its inception and the group of people who brainstormed
ideas for the initial spec. I was a spectator who stumbled upon it
while I was browsing through bongusta! one day [2].

Solderpunk and the FAQ [3] are wrong about gemini. Gemini’s success
is not because the protocol was designed to be restrictive, or secure,
or accessible, or any other post-hoc rationalization that one might
come up with to explain why gemini is better than the web.

Gemini is nothing more than a set of common-sense solutions to
problems that were expressed by the gopher community around the time.
By “gopher community” I don’t mean the UMN gopher/gopher+ of the 90’s
which is long since dead. I mean the modern gopher revival of the
post 2000’s, which is *completely* different in both form and
function. Gopher has not survived the past 30 years because the
protocol was simple and restrictive. On the contrary, gopher has
evolved profoundly.

So then what’s so special about gemini? Why not stick to gopher? Put
simply, it was time for gopher to evolve again. The gopher community
wanted more. But we had reached the limit of what was capable without
breaking gopher in backwards incompatible ways. Thus gemini was
conceived to fill that gap. This is such an important distinction to
make. Gemini was *not* born to add restrictions to an increasingly
bloated web. Gemini was born to release the shackles of a legacy
gopher protocol.

The secret to gemini is not what it restricts; but what it enables.
Constraint breeds creativity. This is the reason that gopher and
gemini have been successful. A bunch of tinkerers, hackers, artists,
poets, and makers found a new medium to express themselves. Or
rather, a bunch of normal folks like you and me discovered that we
*can* be those things if we want to be.

It’s the magic of the smolnet. It’s fleeting; you can’t capture it in
a bottle and you can’t freeze it in time by locking down the spec.
Enjoy it while it lasts. I came up with the favicon emoji RFC because
I thought it was a fun idea. I ported botany to gemini because I
thought it was a fun idea. Don’t stifle your own ideas out of fear of
what will happen to gemini://. Gemini will evolve whether you want it to
or not.

- Michael (mozz)

[0] gemini://mozz.us/files/rfc_gemini_favicon.gmi
[1] https://github.com/makeworld-the-better-one/amfora/issues/199
[2] gopher://i-logout.cz:70/1/bongusta
[3] https://portal.mozz.us/gemini/gemini.circumlunar.space/docs/faq.gmi

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