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Show HN: Browservice – Browse the modern web on historical browsers (github.com)
193 points by ttalvitie 20 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments

Oh THAT way round, that's super cool! I was thinking the other way.. "See what that stinking pile of javascript and css looks like in Mosaic", but, this is actually useful! :D

Most pages just flat out don't work, since they are HTTPS only, and the new encryption algorithms don't work, and the servers don't downgrade.

With better security for 99.9% people, you got less backwards compatibility for the 0.01%. And it's OK.

Yeah, same confusion here. First example, being HN added to the confusion, since HN seems like exactly the kind of site that would render fine on a thirty year old browser (not meant as a swipe in any way - HN does one thing and it does it well).

Yeah, I from tim-to-time browse & comment on HN using Links2[0] (in graphics & terminal mode).

[0] http://links.twibright.com

Last time I checked about a year ago, HN is one of the few sites that render well and work on my first generation iPod Touch from 2007.

that's also what I thought it would be. I was hoping to have a chuckle!

As the Readme notes, a similar project is the Web Rendering Proxy (WRP) - https://github.com/tenox7/wrp, however the two projects differ in their use (or lack of) JavaScript:

> This idea of using a proxy to render the browser view into images has been used before by WRP (Web Rendering proxy). Browservice differs from WRP in that it uses JavaScript on the client browser to animate the browser view and gather user input events, while in WRP, the user has to use web forms and image maps to provide the input, and the page has to be reloaded for every update in the view. Thus Browservice gives the user a more immersive web browsing experience, but also requires a newer client browser and more powerful hardware. While WRP can run on browsers as old as NCSA Mosaic 2.0, the earliest supported client browsers for Browservice are from late 90s and early 00s.

My OS of choice is OS X 10.9 "Mavericks". It's not old enough to be "Retro" yet, but I want to stay here for a while, and Firefox says they're dropping support in a year. And while there are a bunch of alternatives browsers I can move to (ArcticFox, Unofficial Intel Builds of TenFourFox, etc), they don't always work with every website.

So, one long-term possibility I'm toying with is using OS X's implementation of X11. I could run Firefox in a modern Linux distro (probably a VM on the same machine, although it could be a different machine), and use X Forwarding to make it appear as a normal app. I think this should theoretically work for a lot of OS's, from the earliest versions of OS X to decade-old copies of Linux.

Has anyone used this approach for old machines?

> It's not old enough to be "Retro" yet, but I want to stay here for a while

It's old enough to not get any security updates. Doesn't that concern you?

Snow Leopard is my favourite OS to date. It was blazing fast and got out of the way. After that, it kept getting worse gradually...

That said I'd be concerned about not getting security updates by running a legacy OS... Aren't you?

I shared my little security self-assessment a couple weeks ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23473839

Also in that comment thread, some thoughts on Mavericks vs Snow Leopard: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23467082

UI-wise, I think macOS 10.4 is my favourite. There's just something really charming about the 2005-era Aqua design.

> Has anyone does this?

Yes, it's a common way to run GUI-based Kali Linux apps under Windows 10's Linux Subsystem.

I tried it. Performance was awful with the standard XQuartz client, especially scrolling, so I tried some alternatives: TigerVNC, X2Go, NoMachine, RDP. NoMachine had the best performance by far, RDP was decent. VNC and X2Go were too fiddly to setup for my.

Even with NoMachine the overall experience was clearly much worse than a native browser (mostly due to worse trackpad-scrolling).

Aw, that's disappointing! This was over wired lan?

I'm very surprised that standard render-remotely-and-send-pixels software was more effective than X forwarding, where the drawing is still done locally.

I tried it with a linux VM on the same Mac (specifically, 10.14 with fedora32 in under hyperkit and under qemu with accel=hvf).

If you want to do the reverse, browse the old web on modern browsers, go to https://theoldnet.com

It uses the Wayback Machine as its backend, but with tweaks so the site appears to load "natively".

(Also works on old browsers, too, if you use http instead of https.)

So this pre-renders modern websites in a proxy server, so older browsers can read them? Is that correct?

Reminds me of [1] "Browsh", which is a service that pre-renders a URL for viewability in terminals.

[1] https://www.brow.sh/

This reminds me of Opera Mini (not the same as Opera Mobile).

It server-side rendered pages (on Opera servers), and converted them to a lightweight HTML page (with OPML extension IIRC), and then sent to the browser.

I presume the server costs were high, because you run a giant proxy that did a lot of things for users, but for end users, it meant semi-interactice web pages that were 10-15kb in size.

You can run Opera Mini MIDP using MicroEmulator on Windows or install Opera Mobile Emulator: https://dev.opera.com/articles/opera-mobile-emulator/

Opera Mini still exists. I guess it's not very commonly used nowadays in terms of market share, but on the other hand, individual web pages are much heavier and require more processing nowadays.

This seems like a modern equivalent of Google Chrome Frame[1], pretty cool!

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome_Frame

On the screenshots page, I found this fun:

> Browservice is 100% AJAX-free software, handmade in Finland

Something somewhat related is Mighty by Suhail Doshi, cofounder of Mixpanel and eventually pushed out from the CEO position, but that's irrelevant. Mighty is Chrome but prerendered on some powerful machine. Sounds like a parody but it isn't.


I was just saying the other day:

We need an app that abstracts away the browser / browser engine, and just presents a working website to the user, probably without ads.


Microsoft has been preparing for this with https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/services/visual-studio-co...

This is delightful! As someone who really, really liked Win2000 before switching to Mac, getting to browse the web on an NT/IE6 is a wonderful nostalgia trip (especially when you know it's simulation of sorts).

Thanks for creating this, author!

Had a good laugh watching the "Evangelion" part in one of the screenshots. :-D

I think I found a good use for my Raspberry Pi. And for stuff to download, there's WinWorldPC.

I’ll try this on my iPad first generation, it’s a bit sad to see the device being responsive but pretty much useless, without iCloud support, hard to find iOS 5 apps

Does it imagemap the links?

Not entirely sure of the architecture of this app, after a quick look. Using CEF and C++, with a client and a proxy. But where does the CEF sit, and how is it controlled by the client?

I made something similar in Node.JS using headless Chrome, that targets mobile and desktop browsers. The "proxy" runs anywhere, and a client (that runs in the web browser) connects using Remote Debugging Protocol[0], passing along the user interaction intents by converting them to the wire protocol of RDP. The remote browser server then, like this project ( I think ), passes back pixels from screenshots of the rendered web.

It's a safe but not particularly fast way to do it. MightyApp[2] are doing some sort of MP4 streaming of a remote browser, for speed, I think.

I like the retrocomputing focus of this, and the screenshots and image of the modern web running on an old ThinkPad like machine look really awesome. The focus of my project[1] was more an open-source remote isolated browser, for security, and automation uses.

[0]: https://chromedevtools.github.io/devtools-protocol/

[1]: https://github.com/dosyago/RemoteView

[2]: https://mightyapp.com/

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