what is the smol web?

December 31, 2022 on Eric Bower's blog

Will to power.

It’s the main driving force for companies. Like a gas that fills the volume of its container, companies fill the void in power structures. In Marxism, there’s an emphasis on the exploitation of the proletariat, extracting labor for profit that ought to belong to the laborer.1

A more pressing issue is how companies use their will to live in order to install coercive monopolies in nation-states. They infiltrate all aspects of life to survive.

the modern browser

The modern browser is a monolithic piece of code that acts as an operating system for modern applications. If you want to build a product or service in 2022, chances are you are using the browser to provide it.

Millions of lines of code are added to chromium every year. Only massive teams part of massive corporations can maintain it. Since only companies with large purses can maintain such a project, it’s impossible for competition to enter the market and invent new ways of communicating with each other.

Furthermore, the entire cloud ecosystem – which supports the web – has been monopolized by a few companies. We are standing on the shoulders of giants – and not in a good way.

Those companies have imposed their will to power to deeply influence all aspects of the web today. All we have to do is look at who runs WHATWG to know who owns the web. They control the browsers, they control the specifications, they control what your mind sees.

On the surface it might seem that the goal is to show us ads, but that’s just the direct financial motivator. These companies have used their influence to hide under the browser to grant them power to control our minds.

what is the smol web?

The smol web attempts to simplify the modern web by making content more accessible. In this context, “accessible” means you don’t necessarily need a modern browser to produce and consume content for people to enjoy. The services on the smol web don’t require a ton of resources to maintain themselves. At the core of this movement is creating a platform for communication and collaboration. It’s about carving out a space for us to communicate with each other outside the gaze of a few companies.

The smol web is an attempt to unchain ourselves from the tech giants. We are here to build a web where we have the tools to communicate and collaborate without needing so much infrastructure and resources.

The goal is to create a rich user experience without the need for an engineering marvel like v8 et al. We can accomplish this while at the same time providing a delightful user experience. It’s critical that the user experience we provide in the smol web matches what you can get with modern web apps.

the zen of smol

This depends on the person and context. But if I could provide the “the zen of smol”:

To be clear, monetization of the smol web is fine but we should be sensitive to increasing complexity in order to accomplish that goal.

simplify the tech

By lowering the barrier to entry for small teams to build ways to consume content on the internet, we promote innovation and we make it easier for content creators and consumers to liberate themselves from monolithic apps.

If we simplify the tech, we subvert the power structures of the internet.


  1. I think this argument ignores the time-sensitivity of economics. Assuming both parties enter an agreement voluntarily, laborers trade long-term gains (wages+interest) for short-term gains (wages). Bourgeoisie trade short-term gains (wages) for long-term gains (wages+interest). This time preference provides an ethical framework that justifies the arrangement. Opportunity plays a huge part in this discussion – what if proletariat never have the opportunity to wait for long-term gains? – which I’ll save for another post. ↩︎

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