Web 0.1 head-to-head: 37Signals' Backpackit vs. Gmail in Lynx

Last night, I decided to not-so-carefully run a couple of Web 2.0 apps through the old-school Web 0.1 Lynx browser to see which would work best, or work at all. It occurred to me that in the Web 2.0 world, Lynx might be thrown onto the trash heap of history, made useless by whiz-bang AJAX development. That would be a shame (though the life of Lynx could very well be extended by folks using the lynx -source [URL] command to dump the source from cool AJAX apps)

All this aside, I really just wanted to see what would happen when a Web 2.0 AJAX app got run through the Lynx HTML meat grinder — kind of the same impulse that led me to put various things in the microwave in my youth. For this test, I chose Gmail and 37Signals’ Backpackit.

For these tests, I used this version of Lynx:

Lynx Version 2.8.5rel.1 (04 Feb 2004)
libwww-FM 2.14, SSL-MM 1.4.1, GNUTLS 1.0.16

Let the games begin! First, the Gmail login screen was a bit of a mess under Lynx (username label off to the right, login on the second screen), but ultimately useable.

After login, I jumped through a series of redirects before ending up on this page:

And the experience ended there — no more redirects, just that raw screen. Game over, Google. Yes, I could cut and paste the long URL from the screen into a browser, but then I wouldn’t be testing Lynx any more, would I? Gmail is definitely NOT Lynx-certified. Stay away, Lynx fans.

Next, 37Signals’ Backpackit. The login screen in Lynx is very nice and simple with elegant alignment, all on one page so I didn’t have to resort to the dreaded space bar to advance to the next page:

I navigated a bit and decided to add a note using Lynx.

It worked, as you can see when I checked in Firefox:

The winner by a landslide: 37Signals’ Backpackit. Nice job. Through adequate support of Lynx, Jason and team are clearly practicing the “less is more” that they preach.

Update: In my cheekiness about Lynx, I didn’t think about one aspect that Eugene Chan has pointed out in the comments: “As Lynx goes so does screenreaders for the blind. So it does mean that web designers who are not thinking about web 0.1 may leave an important segment of users behind.” Very good point.

7 thoughts on “Web 0.1 head-to-head: 37Signals' Backpackit vs. Gmail in Lynx

  1. Chad:

    Excellent, if informal, test. As Lynx goes so does screenreaders for the blind. So it does mean that web designers who are not thinking about web 0.1 may leave an important segment of users behind.

  2. Excellent job! I am continually running into flights I can not book on line or hotel rooms I can not set the dates because of poor minded developers using AJAX. Not the tool’s problem but poor development techniques. I am getting locked out of giving money to people because of Mac and Firefox or Safari is not well supported.

    I always think of my developers that would travel home for a week or more to various parts of Africa and Southern Asia. Nearly all of them used Yahoo! because it worked in the internet cafes, where MSN and Hotmail did not. Gmail did not load properly. Most of the cafes have older machines with older browsers, but this works with Yahoo! mail. I hope somebody ensures Yahoo! mail will continue to work well for all as they move to more rich interfaces for mail.

    In the four receptors in the Model of Attraction (intellectual, perceptual, mechanical, and physical) most designers and developers only pay attention to intellectual and perceptual. Most applications fail because of the mechanical receptors (bandwidth, processing power, memory, monitor, etc.). These are simple things to think about and acount for, but when will developers learn if your site or application is usable by all it will more be used more than if it is just cool. (It was wonderful to see Europeans this past week seriously nod as they understand the failures of not having mobile access to information as their culture has moved in that way with a major leap. They also have understood being behind the bandwidth curve for many years, which is no longer the case as they are now quite a bit ahead of the U.S. with broadband penetration and use.)

  3. Hi Chad,

    Just an fyi that if one *needed* a good text based browser, they might check into elinks…

    A few years ago, when browsing through the NetBSD pkgsrc directory, I found it and it just so happens that Gmail and Backpack both work pretty well with it. Depending on the console you’re on, clicking even works. So, just a resource, if you’re in a pinch for a text-based browser, you could try elinks in the future.


  4. Screen readers have JavaScript support (they have to: they sit on top of browsers that understand JS). Naturally this is imperfect, but it is not at all like Lynx, which I use every day and which has no JS support.

  5. Using Lynx, gmail is usable. When you reach the refresh page you just follow that link and you will find yourself face to face with your inbox.

  6. Sorry to revive such an old topic but if you have gotten GMAIL to work with Lynx can anyone post the settings they use? I’m a new but big fan of the Lynx project.

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