OSNews launches Gemini capsule

Have you ever wanted a more lightweight version of OSNews? A version that loads more optimally inside a terminal? Well, I’ve got good news for you: OSNews is now available on Gemini: gemini://gemini.osnews.com. What is Gemini? This is how the project’s website describes it:

Gemini is a new internet technology supporting an electronic library of interconnected text documents. That’s not a new idea, but it’s not old fashioned either. It’s timeless, and deserves tools which treat it as a first class concept, not a vestigial corner case. Gemini isn’t about innovation or disruption, it’s about providing some respite for those who feel the internet has been disrupted enough already. We’re not out to change the world or destroy other technologies. We are out to build a lightweight online space where documents are just documents, in the interests of every reader’s privacy, attention and bandwidth.

Gemini is effectively a text-based alternative protocol to HTTP, reminiscent of protocols like Gopher. There’s some very basic markup available in the form of gemtext, but for all intents and purposes, when you load a Gemini capsule (the Gemini term for website), you’re effectively loading nothing more than plain a text file, which happens to also make Gemini capsules ideal for use in terminals.

There are various ways to load Gemini capsules – from dedicated graphical clients for a wide variety of platforms, to very basic CLI-based clients. Personally, I use Buran on Android, Lagrange and Castor on Linux, GemiNaut on Windows, and Amfora in the CLI. There’s also various extensions for Firefox and Chrome if you want to load Gemini capsules right inside your regular browser. In addition, Gemini’s lightweight, simple nature also makes it a great candidate for alternative, classic, or basic operating systems.

As far HTTP(S) links go, Gemini clients will generally offer to load these inside your default browser.

Due to Gemini’s focus on simplicity, there’s a few workarounds the OSNews Gemini site had to implement to make it all work. First, you cannot have in-text links such as this – every link needs to be its own line. So, links inside stories are converted to numbered footnotes.

Second, while gemtext supports quotes, they, too, can only be on one line. As such, we had to choose between turning multi-paragraph quotes into multiple separate gemtext quotes, or combine quotes into one gemtext quote. We opted for the latter, as it looked the best on most clients I’ve tried.

Third, for simplicity’s sake, comments are not available on our Gemini site. Not only would it be hard (impossible?) to let you post comments inside Gemini, it would also be needlessly complex to create multiple scripts to convert comments posted on the regular site into gemtext. As such, every story on the Gemini site will contain an outgoing “Comments” link, pointing towards the normal site.

Fourth, there’s no images.

As for how this all works – I’m running the Agate Gemini server from home (meaning the server will be down a few times a week as I install updates on my workstation), and Julien Blanchard (julienxx) did the actually hard work by writing a Ruby script that takes our RSS feed and converts it into a drop-in gemtext page. I simply run this script periodically, and it dumps the gemtext page in Agate’s /content directory. I want to deeply thank Julien for writing this script and working out a few small bugs with me – I never could’ve done this myself, and probably would’ve had to resort to manually posting the items on Gemini myself.

As for the why – well, why not? When I ran across Gemini, I instantly felt it was a great fit for OSNews, and would give you as readers a different, far more optimised way of accessing the site. While I doubt it will see tons of use, I’m sure there’s still a few of you out there who would be happy with this version of OSNews.


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