You know I love you. I obsess over you every day the way my parent's generation adored their newsprint data feeds -- perhaps more so. I need you to entertain me, to inform me, and to support my enterprise. I cannot do without you.
And yet you do stuff like this. What the hell, Internet?
Let me explain.
My computer, like most, has a wide-screen "high definition" monitor. This means it's short and stout. Look at your own computer display. Most likely it's also 80% wider than it is tall, and for good reason. All current video content is 16 by 9; thus all TV screens are 16:9; therefore all computer monitors -- made by the same companies and with the same equipment as flat screen TVs -- are also 16:9. This is a mathematical manufacturing reality mysterious to no one.
On the other hand most web content is oriented vertically. Look at this very website. You will see wide expanses of empty blue on the left and the right, while the actual content of the site inhabits a narrow strip down the middle of the page that demands scrolling. Even on more fully-populated pages, the useful material tends to run vertically down the center with the peripheral areas filled with secondary links and ads.
So we see that there is already tension between the pixels that are available to show web content, and the format of the content itself. At best we are left with a narrow band of useful pixels down the middle of the screen -- the intersection between the vertical content and the horizontal display. Perhaps we can use the remaining area fruitfully with other applications, perhaps not. What's clear in any case is that vertical real-estate is at a premium, while horizontal real-estate is going to waste.
Why then -- why oh why oh why -- do internet applications insist on eating up that precious vertical space? The "free web toolbar" previously linked -- that has started showing up on sites where I mostly want to read the content thank you very much -- sucks up at least 2 or 3 lines of what could be text. To what end? Those sites all have acres of empty space to the right or left that could be used for rarely-used toolbars. These are nearly as bad as the website headers and menus that persist in taking up space no matter how much you scroll. Are web programmers really incapable of making interfaces that use the sides of the screen instead of great swaths of vertical space?
Of course it's not just the web pages; it's the browser itself. My old browser reserved vertical space for: the window title, the application menu, the navigation toolbar, the bookmark toolbar, tabs, and a status info bar. The new one removes the status info and the menu -- incorporating the latter into the window title -- and yet it still makes considerable vertical space unavailable for content. Content which cannot, by the way, take advantage of the wide open frontiers of the sides of the browser.
So here's my question, Internet. Is it really impossible to make web content -- and web browsers for that matter -- that actually fit with and fully utilize widescreen computer displays? I think it is, and I don't feel like I should be having to ask this question.