Tim TrottTim TrottThe time is always right to do what is right

Living Online Without Javascript

By , Friday 1st November 2013 in Javascript / jQuery Security & Privacy

Javascript used to be a tool for enhancing a webpage through the actions of client side scripting (running in your browser, not on the server). In recent years, Javascript has become more of an annoyance than an enhancement and is increasingly used to bypass privacy and security settings, tracking you actions and analysing you every movement online.

JavaScript and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML) are now heavily used by most websites to enhance the user experience, sometimes it is overused, but for the most part they work well. But when they are badly coded you end up with a horrible mess and an unusable web page. They can also be easily broken by browser popup blockers which again result in an unusable web page, and I find they frequently break the back button behaviour, especially with AJAX dynamically loading content and controlling pagination. One of my golden rules for web development is NEVER BREAK THE BACK BUTTON.

JavaScript is also used to track visitors on a website, collect information about your browsing habits through tracking scripts and supercookies, and it is being increasingly used to track your actions on a page, from where your mouse tracks and hovers, how far down the page you scroll, the keys you press on the keyboard and even what you copy off a web page. Ever notice copyright notices in text pasted from a site - that was inserted via Javascript and probably logged on the server - they know who copied text from their site!

JavaScript is also unfortunately responsible for a lot of identity theft, scripting attacks, spying, snooping, keylogging even browser hijacking.

JavaScript should always be an enhancement to web functionality, not a replacement, therefore all sites should work just as well without JavaScript. I have decided to try and go a whole month online without JavaScript by disabling it in my browser settings.

Working GreatWorks OK / WorkaroundDoes Not Work
RT.com - Works great! Top marks  :) Google Images - Reverts back to old version (Bonus as the old version worked better!)Google Maps - Doesn't even try. Redirects to Google search.
Santander Online Banking - Works great! Top marks  :) WordPress - Admin dashboard works correctly, even a little faster.Google Play Store - Can browse site, but nothing more. No app installation, no comments, no large images (preview thumbs only)
StackOverflow - Banner warning that the site is best viewed with Javascript, but site works fine without.BBC News - Content visible and working, but many site features do not work. Lots of notices that media requires JavaScript to play.eBay - Total non-show. Nothing but a blank page.
GMail - Main site does not work, but there is a link to the old version which does not need JavaScript.Google Adsense - Nothing but a blank page, even in low bandwidth mode.
My site - Lightbox doesn't work, but links to main images allow full size image viewing. Lazy load images does not work, resulting in low-quality images. Looking for a fix.Google Analytics - Nothing but a blank page
MyFitnessPal - Not working at all, just a loading animation.
YouTube - site works but no videos play.
Facebook - Notice stating JavaScript required, nothing works unless you switch to mobile version.
Google Groups Discussions, nothing but message stating JavaScript required.
Apple - Entire site refuses to load. Poor show Apple. Very Poor.
Any site using recaptcha or similar anti-spam mechanisms.
Disqus - Blank homepage, no content. Any blogs powered by Disqus will not show comments.
Money Saving Expert - No content
Compare the Market - No content

I'm actually quite surprised by the fact that most of the large and popular websites require JavaScript for even the most basic functions - such as viewing the site! No JavaScript = No Website.

Over the past month, I've witnessed a shocking, and saddening, fact that in today's "Web 3" JavaScript is an essential requirement, not an optional enhancement. My personal policy remains unchanged - any development I do will still have use JavaScript to enhance existing functionality but it will be optional, and as for my browsing I shall continue blocking JavaScript and maintain an exception list. I'll also be blocking third party cookies and implementing a URL filter to block out third party JavaScript and adverts.

What are your thoughts on JavaScript usage? Should a website be usable without JavaScript, or is it now acceptable to rely on it to use a website?

My website and its content are free to use without the clutter of adverts, tracking cookies, marketing messages or anything else like that. If you enjoyed reading this article, or it helped you in some way, all I ask in return is you leave a comment below or share this page with your friends. Thank you.

About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

Further Reading
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.