It’s just data

A New Butler For Jonas

It has been two weeks since Jonas Luster fired his butler.  The primary reason cited was gross insubordination — an unwillingness on the part of the butler do as he was asked.  Perhaps the fact that the butler doesn’t help with of Jonas’s real needs — the ones behind the statement I am busy still trying to sift through all those advertisements — was also a factor.

On the surface, it seems that Google’s AutoLink meets the letter of each of Yoz’s three rules for determining if such a tool is within the spirit of the Web.  However, upon closer examination, it turns out that there may be some wiggle room in the first rule.  Today the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer is closed source.  The skills and techniques for creating such a thing are well beyond the abilities of most users.  Heck, they are black magic to most seasoned programmers.

Simply put, if you can’t see the definition (and furthermore don’t trust the author to the point of being willing to write what amounts to a blank check), then how can a closed source toolbar ever pass the “completely understood” test?

What if such a tool were open source?  Furthermore, suppose the tool were well commented, and structured in such a way that people who have even the most tenuous grasp on the concepts of HTML could reasonably modify it to remove the links and content that they don’t want, and add or reorder the links that they do want?

Today Mark Pilgrim made available a new butler that is all this and more.  Made available under the GPL.  Share and enjoy.

Now, Jonas, would you fire this butler too?