Exploring Gemini

Exploring Gemini
Photo by Sandra Seitamaa / Unsplash

I've long complained that a core problem with the modern Internet is that most developers would rather build apps than protocols. From a pure "1000x your ROI and be a unicorn perspective," that makes sense. Yet if no one's building protocols, how does the web evolve?

So I was happy to learn about the Gemini protocol. First reiver told me about it in passing, and now it seems as though everyone on Mastodon has a Gemini site. So I decided to see what the big deal is.

Gemini browser
Legrange browser

There's not a whole lot of Gemini browsers available, and the ones in use are quite bare bones. The one you see above is Lagrange for Windows. First impressions are that it reminds me of the original Mosaic web browser built by Marc Andreesen.

But the real excitement is in Gemtext markup.

To those who know me, it's no secret that I loathe HTML but am a pretty big fan of markdown. This is because I am, by my nature a writer – and writers don't want to spend their time mucking about with lesser-than and greater-than symbols. We want to get to the core of the task, which is words.

For me, Gemtext is a return to sanity. If you want a heading, you start a new line with "#". If you want to quote something, you start a new line with ">". Links can only be inserted on a line of their own, and look like this:

=> gopher://example.com A cool website

This is all beautifully minimalistic, and I hope whoever continues work on Gemini keeps it that way.

So I looked for further resources on styling. Unsurprisingly, there's no support for something akin to CSS. Again, this is a good thing as CSS has always seemed a bit too complicated for my own uses.

Unfortunately, documentation on how to style a Gemini page seems sparse. I imagine it's fairly easy, but I just haven't found a guide on how to do things like insert headers or change backgrounds.

And therein lies the rub. Gemini is simple. I've looked at the source from page after page, and it's consistent in its simplicity. But there also seems to be a secret sauce, and no one's letting me in on it because the documentation looks sparse.

But I like the goals it has going for it. Certain folks decry Gemini as solutionism as its worst, and state that the need for a seperate Gemini browser – separate from the web – renders it unusable. I disagree.

I've always wished creating a web page was as easy as the act of writing. With Gemini, I've found that. At the end of the day, I just want a protocol that does a good job of delivering text – the web no longer does this.

Here's hoping the project continues.