Not a Zero-Sum Game

Continuing my pondering about non-Gemtext formats:

Thinking back, I've been very fixated on the clientside. (For obvious reasons.) Clients need to do the best job they can to present any content they are given, but that's not the full picture here. The server plays an important role, too.

There is no mandate for content to exist in a single format only. It strikes me now as the only right path forward that Gemini servers should provide all of their content as Gemtext, _AND ALSO_ in other formats when that provides an improved experience for the reader/user. This is the only way that the plethora of clients out there, and any still unwritten, can have access to all of Gemini without everyone being tied to the lowest common denominator. The importance of Gemtext's accessibility characteristics should not be overlooked, either, for any clients focusing on non-visual presentation.

A server can and should offer pages in multiple formats so that the user can pick which one suits their situation and client the best, be it Gemtext, Markdown, ePub, Gempub, HTML, PDF, or even some weird ANSI-styled "rich" text. For one content to be offered does not mean that others cannot be.

In practice this means some additional sophistication is needed on the serverside or in the content management system. Previously I was dismissing the idea of conversions due to the inherent problems with managing multiple versions of a single document, but a few relatively simple scripts and a little bit of discipline can take care of it. There is room for experimentation here without any changes to the protocol.

Human nature being what it is, will people still flock to one advanced format and forget about good ol' Gemtext? I suppose that is always a risk, especially with more popular clients putting their foot on the scale, but if that happens it signals a failure of the Gemini philosophy to attract a committed following. A key aspect for authors to remember is that this is not the web: we are not at the mercy of a single browser engine or access channel, but instead should embrace the full diversity of clients and presentation mediums available.

📅 2021-10-16

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The original Gemtext version of this page can be accessed with a Gemini client: gemini://