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Using text-only web browser Lynx to visit some of today’s top websites

lynx

Do you use Lynx? If so, you’re one of a rather small minority that use the text-only web browser, which predates even the world wide web. Although it is still perfectly usable for most websites, the lack of graphics makes Lynx less than desirable for most users today.

But our curiosity got the better of us, and we wanted to find out how useful Lynx would be to browse some of today’s top websites. This is the sort of exercise that gives you a warm geeky feeling inside.

Google

google in lynx

Out of the sites we tested Google.com is the most functional. The homepage fits in a regular 80×24 character terminal screen, and you can type in what you want to find and search for it.

The search results could perhaps be presented in a bit better way, but nonetheless, the site is perfectly usable with Lynx.

Apple

Apple.com with Lynx

You would be excused for thinking that the image and video heavy Apple.com site would be useless with Lynx, but, surprise, you’d be wrong. Looking at the specifications, for example, of its latest MacBook Pro is no problem. Now, when it comes to shopping online with Lynx, that’s a whole other ballgame (hint: don’t bother trying).

Facebook

facebook in lynx

Right when you arrive at Facebook’s homepage it tells you “You’re using a web browser we don’t support.” That’s at least honest and upfront. But that’s as far as you go as you can’t log in.

New York Times

nytimes in lynx

We decided to throw in New York Times in our test to see how it fared with Lynx. The answer is not too badly. Reading articles with Lynx works okay, but the pages become very long, with the menus especially taking up a lot of space.

Tumblr

tumblr in lynx

Tumblr is a site clearly not built for Lynx users as you can’t log in. To be fair, using a text-only browser for Tumblr may not be the brightest idea ever. But it would be nice to be able to log in to your account and post an update, at least.

Twitter

twitter in lynx

Twitter warns that its site “makes heavy use of JavaScript,” but that shouldn’t deter potential Lynx users. Or should it? We couldn’t figure out how to post a new tweet, nor did we get replying worked out. The best you can hope for then is catching up with your Twitter stream then.

CNN

CNN in Lynx

Scanning the latest headlines on the CNN.com homepage works pretty well with Lynx. But if you want to browse around and read articles, be prepared to scroll past a lot of stuff at the beginning of each page before you get to the actual content.

Pinterest

pinterest in lynx

Yes, we saved the worst until now, because, if you can’t see any pictures, what’s the point of visiting Pinterest? Login doesn’t seem to work, but that’s a moot point anyway, given the purpose of the site.

Wikipedia

wikipedia in lynx

Although we wouldn’t call browsing around on Wikipedia with Lynx a pleasant experience, necessarily, it works. That’s perhaps not surprising given that it’s primarily a text-based site.

Amazon

Amazon.com with Lynx

Last but in no way least in our brief survey of using some of the world’s top sites is Amazon.com. Short verdict: it works! We could search for items and even log in to our account and see purchase history, and more.

Lynx FTW

After having attacked these ten sites with Lynx, our conclusion can only be that it worked better than we had anticipated. Not all the sites are usable with Lynx, but many of them offer at least basic functionality using the text-only web browser.

Being the geeks we are, we’d almost like to shout “Lynx FTW” from the rooftops. It’s not that we’ll all switch now to Lynx as our main web browser, but it’s nice to know that a text-only browser works this well still today.

Do you know of any particularly Lynx-friendly or unfriendly sites? Share them with us in the comments.

Image (top) via Shutterstock.



10 Comments

Joshua K Farrar

June 25th, 2012 at 10:27 am


Lynx is how I read / update our internal Wiki when I’m at the datacenter and don’t have a screen handy :P

Links is a more modern text browser that supports JavaScript and better formatting, so it would have been more interesting with it than Lynx.
 
BTW, I couldn’t post this comment from ICS browser as well as mobile chrome. The “Post comment as” button does nothing and I couldn’t disable the mobile theme.

Actually, IBM’s site is perfectly usable.  Of course, Craigslist works – though its best to start out with your city.  Whitehouse.gov does an excellent job (of usability – no politics intended).  And I’m surprised you didn’t try Playboy – its not only works, for the first time you can honestly say you are just reading the articles.

 @pbarnhart LOL, that’s the best argument for using Lynx we’ve ever heard :)

In fairness to Facebook the mobile version (m.facebook.com) works reasonably well in a text-based browser! Not that I’ve ever used SSH to get past a firewall

Jonathan Causon

June 27th, 2012 at 2:05 am


My website InstaImageHost has been made to ‘kind’ of work with older browsers and made sure I added alt tags on ALL images.
I used Pingdom’s Website Load Time Checker to make sure it’s fast and a good size.
.
The site is *Amazing* and has helped me to much! Thanks Pingdon!

Cool article.  You should have also tested out some government sites. 

If I were to teach a class in HTML5, I would use lynx as a test browser, that would really get the idea across that HTML isn’t about presentation but about content.  Once we have a site that is usable in lynx then we would open Firefox and start styling the pages with CSS.  Testing pages in lynx can be a helpful way to test for accessibility also.  Important for anyone developing government sites.
I also use lynx from time to time when I need to look up how to do
something from the command like interface of Linux.  Like just now my X
session froze and I couldn’t do anything, and I forgot the syntax for
pkill.  I found the info in 10 seconds using lynx on a text console and
was able to restart my X session without need of restarting the whole
system.  Very neat.

good to be here // great purview on lynx web browsers on some of today’s top websites. #plbkkt via #hshdsh

Test

SpencerWHunter Tested #plbkkt via #hshdsh :)