About Linux on the Web (LOTW)


Circa 1990, the web was just a way for public servers to deliver static "documents" to remote clients. Inevitably, the question of how to allow for programs and dynamic content arose, which led to the development of plugins like Java applets and scripting languages like JavaScript.

In time, JavaScript won the day when it was adopted by the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA), and was technically to be known as ECMAScript. Since there was now an official mechanism to allow for international consensus regarding the evolution of the language, it became a "modern" language that experts and companies could depend on.

In the late 2000's, Google began work on it's own JavaScript implementation in the form of the v8 engine, which was used as the runtime for the Chrome browser and for Node.js. As these technologies evolved in terms of raw performance and developer APIs, the web application paradigm could begin a rapidly ascendant trajectory.

The Question of state

The very first web browsers had no mechanism for persistent statefulness. Then, so-called cookies came around as a way to uniquely identify the visitors of websites and deliver custom content. In this way, login mechanisms could be devised to allow for merchants to take orders from their customers, among other applications.

Over time, there have been many mechanisms to allow for the persistence of end-user specific data. In 2011, Chrome released a file system API to allow for the usage of a local, sandboxed file system. Right around then, I first began to experiment with web development, and one of the questions swimming around my head must have been something like: If web domains have access to their own internal file systems, then what is the limit in terms of the user interfaces that put those file systems to use?

LOTW is really "Unix philosophy in a browser"

The LOTW project is an attempt to create a highly portable general computing environment centered around the Unix paradigm (developed at Bell Labs starting around 1970). While it is natural for people to fixate on (or just emphasize) either its OS-like aspects or web-like aspects, the truth is that LOTW is a new kind of thing that harmoniously blends both parts into a synthetic whole.