Welcome to Smartening Up the Web

In the last few years, the World Wide Web has become noticeably more useful and desperately more tedious to use.

More useful because, instead of just buying things, we can buy them at the best price possible. We can arrange travel and manage our finances without standing in line anywhere and we can learn how to do almost anything without sitting in a classroom.

The tedium arises because it is no longer possible to do these things without constantly being bombarded with pleas to do something else as well:

  • Please buy something you have no interest in or from a company or location you detest...
  • ...accompanied by pathetically inept sales strategies to get you to buy, buy, buy...
  • Suffer terrible graphic design or struggle with unusable user interfaces
  • Wade through Web content that is of no interest to you because the provider tries to do something for everyone
  • Loose useful functionality taken away by paranoid providers who see the Internet as a dark and scary place so they force you to use GDPR, OTPs, 2-step authentication, password protected PDFs, and on and on...

Why has this happened?

The answer is way beyond my pay grade but here are some possible reasons:

Monetization: A few smart guys have a good idea; VCs pile in; let their unicorn run at a huge loss for a few years then turn the screws on getting a return; smart guys have to find a way; so they try to sell me something I never asked for. Relentlessly

Incest: Booking Holdings manipulates the Web sites of all its subsidiary companies to engage in promotion of each others' products. If you use their sites, watch out for MomondaDeoda and OppodoDeodo.

Lazada, owned by AliBaba. Pushes mainland China resellers. Impossible to de-select Overseas while keeping all domestic sellers in a Search. So watch out for LazadaDeoda.

Cyberfraud costs providers real money but, instead of making their servers more secure, they reach for the easy option of making life more difficult for you. So CSV downloads disappear from retail banking sites, PDF statements don't allow copy/paste, a travel search web site makes you solve a captcha, Agoda sends you an email if you want to use their Web site instead of an app. Thay have become paranoid at the same time as being lazy about their own security.

Snake Oil: I travel a lot and agoda.com--more than any other travel search web site--has consistently delivered the best hotels, condos and BnBs. But their Web site is appalling. Graphic design: choked. Sales psychology: infantile. Content: overwhelmed by paid advertisers. If I was teaching a course on Commercial Web Design 101, I would spend a whole semester deconstructing Agoda. That's how bad it is.

But they are not stupid people. Based in Singapore with the resources of Booking Holdings behind them, they must have access to the best and brightest marketeers in the travel business. So we can assume that a significant number of their users are swayed into making a booking they might not otherwise have made by "only 2 left", "15 people are looking at this property" and "before you go..."

Even though I constantly remind myself that all of this is aimed at someone else, I can't help feeling my intelligence is being insulted. So I wrote AgodaDeoda to remove the insult.

It's Not Always Them; Sometimes It's Me: I get my world news from the Times of London because I trust their editorial integrity more than any other world class newspaper. But I am not interested in UK local news and I am not interested in any of the sports that consuming 90% of the column inches of their Sports section. I spend a significant amount of each day reading the Times and a lot of that time goes to skipping articles of no interest to me. Solution: BestOfTimes, a browser add-in to cut them out. Not The Times fault but not mine either.

So here's why Smartening Up does what it does

Early in the life of the World Wide Web, removing irritants was relatively easy

Hide rotating ad banners. Stop popups. Block ads

That's all been done. Now, the challenge is much bigger. We need to reach into the inner workings of Web pages to remove the irritants before they hit your screen and to provide useful features that the providers didn't think of. Or worse, features that they decided you shouldn't have!

Fortunately, the tech tools now exist to do it. We are building Extensions for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge on Windows and Android and stand-alone Android apps. The side bar on the right lists them.

Here's my offer to you:

I will systematically remove the irritants from the Web sites you use and Smarten them Up

You will tell me about Web sites that drive you crazy and, if enough people agree with you, I will Smarten them Up for everyone.