I wanted to hit my browser’s “home” button and for a baffling moment couldn’t find it. This remains a rare experience, but I found it a worrying symptom.
Here’s the top part of a browser window; Firefox in this case, but I think the narrative would apply to Chrome and Safari as well.
Look, particularly at the top left of the window; are there ever a whole lot of controls and levels and frames and abstractions and graphics jumbled in there!
The problem is that people like me (and I bet most readers here) can’t even see that there’s a jumble; the sediments of infrastructure are clearly separated in our understanding and thus our eyes. But occasionally I get a flash of how it must look to civilian eyes, and it doesn’t make me happy.
Somehow, ordinary people manage to keep all these frameworks sorted out in their minds; well enough for hundreds of millions of them to get lots of useful work done every day using browsers. I have to tip my hat to the graphic-design leads, who’ve struggled heroically for some level of minimal visual consistency.
I counted all the clickable visual artifacts in this little bit of screen and got 46; I’d be amazed if anyone else got the same count.
No, I’m not saying that browsers aren’t wonderful. I just worry about accretion, and wonder if the future is increasingly a software palimpsest.