Hot takes! Any hot takes?

Last week, the Android Police site spotted a pull request in the Chromium code repository with the following description:

If a Data Saver user is on a 2G-speed or slower network according to the NetInfo API, Chrome disables scripts and sends an intervention header on every resource request. Users are shown a UI at the bottom of the screen indicating the page has been modified to save data. Users can enable scripts on the page by tapping “Show original” in the UI.

Of course, reading this article is not how many people learned about this story. By the magic that is social media, we often receive second-hand opinions, interpretations and reactions first, from the people that we follow and the voices that they amplify. We may sometimes have to do a bit of research to find out what is being reacted to.

Even before social media took off, blog posts and RSS feeds created much the same situation, but the speed with which viewpoints spread was slower.

Reactions to this particular news about Chrome varied drastically. I’m not going to quote directly or name people, but I saw two very contrasting types of reaction, mostly reflecting where each person stood in the debate about how web apps should be built.

On the one hand, there’s the ‘Yay I was right about using progressive enhancement all along!’ response, and on the other ‘Woah! What about all the effort we put into performance and service workers for poor network conditions?’

Neither of these viewpoints is inherently wrong. But they are both reactions based on limited information. No official announcement has been made by the Google Chrome team. In fact, Addy Osmani had to clarify the change in a tweet:

Emerging market interventions like this (blocking JS execution when user has Data Saver on & is on slow 2G) are rolled out with an info bar allowing you to “Show original” (with JS on). The idea is NoScript is a “preview” of page content while waiting for slow pages to fully load.

and, intriguingly:

There are quite a few in-flux interventions like this one that we’re planning more detailed write-ups on. Please bear with us and we’ll get the details published soon.

As more details about these ‘interventions’ emerge, there is certainly a debate to be had about the relative roles of browsers and web developers in determining experiences for users. Google have form in this area (cough AMP cough). But we just don’t know enough about the changes yet to be able to discuss them.

Social media has normalised rapid reactions to events that are still emerging. This has been problematic for national and international news events. It’s also problematic (on a smaller scale) for the professional specialisms that we focus on. Don’t be too quick to make a judgement based on second- or third-hand reactions.

All the best,

– Jim

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