Putting on my hacker hoodie to View Source


Seriously, the Chrome team just landed a patch that lets sites block "View Source" right in the middle of the Chrome Dev Summit.

(To everyone saying "this is just an enterprise policy": Look at the conversations in the bugs.

Somebody said, to the Chromium team, schools are using Google Forms for testing, and the kids can see the right answers in the forms, so to address that, we want to prevent students from reading source code.

And without an ounce of pushback, without so much as a nod in the direction that this might not be the right solution to this problem, the Chromium team said yes.)

That's what sticks in my craw here. Not the policy part, not the (naive, flawed) implementation. Somebody asked the Chromium team to restrict students access to devtools and source code, and there wasn't even a discussion.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson unavailable for comment.

Update: Because this seems to be catnip for "Well Actually" techbros, let me clarify:

Adding the ability to block View Source is antithetical to what the web used to stand for. It is profoundly fucking evil, and everyone responsible should be ashamed. I don't care how many times you say the word "enterprise" as an excuse for your decision.

Update 2: spifbv:

Imagine being a kid who would like to learn about how the web works. Your only computer is a Chromebook managed by your school district. They block access to view source with this. Are you okay with that?

This is why computer people need to study ethics.

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30 Responses:

  1. Somewhere, a kid is being suspended for possessing "hacker tools" because they have Firefox on thumb drive.

    • Doglitbug says:

      To be fair, why would you have USB ports that aren't filled with glue in a school...

    • NK says:

      Back in HS the sysadmin deleted my account out of spite. He saw me using palemoon and couldn't figure out how.
      Even back then they locked down chrome to refuse installing addons (like adblock) and restrict youtube to kid mode.

  2. Dude says:

    On a... kinda, sorta related note - the newest Honest Trailer dropped yesterday:

    • magcore says:

      This honest trailer is really just extolling all of the best things about this fine movie!

    • jwz says:

      Everyone keeps sending me this, but it is absolutely the opposite of funny. I couldn't finish it. Fish in a barrel but they missed every shot.

      And everybody knows that Angelina Jolie's first movie was Cyborg 2.

  3. CJ says:

    Infuriating, but alas, unsurprising. Chrome devs have always come off as extraordinarily user-hostile to me. I remember one thread where Chrome devs only begrudgingly decided to continue offering the "show desktop version" option on their Android version, because "web developers know better than users." I'm constantly annoyed at how popular Chrome-based browsers have become. Sigh...

  4. Erin M says:

    You'll have to pry my firefox (and plugins) from my cold dead hands.

    • jwz says:

      You mean this Firefox? Is that the one you mean?

      • Erin M says:

        Good point.

      • Erin M says:

        The main reason I stick with it is the availability of certain plugins that help make the Internet somewhat usable and, I suppose, just the fact that I'm used to it.

      • Netluser says:

        I won't hold my breath waiting for the inevitable moz://a dev who files a bug to remove view source, with the tag chrome-parity.

        Because when you're trying to keep up with your competitor, making sure your browser is just as useless as theirs is what matters. (Protip: Don't go to bugzilla and read the tag chrome-parity if you value not having high blood pressure.)

      • Nick G says:

        Yeah. As my organisation’s W3C AC rep, I lodged a formal objection to EME, for all the good that did. Given the way that Google et al have been happy to bypass W3C (WHATWG, etc), I suspect that EME was W3C trying to demonstrate that it still had some control over the Web standards process. Sad days.

  5. mattl says:


    Excited to be a few days away from putting my last Linux desktop to bed, so at least I can use Safari most of the time.

  6. dgncrn says:

    My crime is that of curiosity.

    • グレェ「grey」 says:

      Those who did learn from The Mentor, are doomed to watch others repeat history's mistakes?

      I thought it was bad enough when Safari/Webkit buried "Show Page Source" under the Develop menu (which itself needs to be enabled in Preferences).

      The dystopian present timeline is terrible. I'm not sure how far back I would revert things, I used to think the early 1990s, but maybe that isn't good enough.

  7. phuzz says:

    Just had a read through the original bug report, which seems mostly to be schools saying "our web filtering doesn't work because the kids are using view source", which is really begging the reply "then the actual problem is that your web filtering is shit".
    To be fair to the Chromium devs though, there is at least "an ounce of pushback", mostly trying to show the complainers that it's entirely possible to make a quiz in Google Forms which doesn't contain the answers in the source...before they then cave.

    (Chrome has allowed blocking of developer tools since at least 2015 tho)

  8. cdavies says:

    So, if I understand correctly, if you manage a chrome installation you can add the view-source: url scheme to block someone from viewing a page's source code, but it does absolutely nothing to stop them flipping open the Chrome dev tools, navigating to the network tab and examining the response text.

    Hackerman strikes again.

    • irae says:

      OMG! You monster!

      Can't you see we are trying to be "educational" here? Don't you dare tell the kids there are dev tools. It is not for their ages!

  9. Karellen says:

    What part of User Agent do the people writing a gorram User Agent not understand? It's the user's... agent. It's, like, right there.

    Just... how?

  10. NewOnesBot says:

    There actually was some discussion here (which is the norm):


    • 1

      Why was this apparently completely ignored?

      Comment 7 by bheenan@… on Tue, Dec 4, 2018, 10:13 PM EST

      Hi stephengale@…,

      Can you provide more details on how users are able to use the page source to determine the correct answer? An alternative (and probably more robust) fix would be to stop Forms from having the correct answer discernible from the source.

      I created a quiz to test this, but looking at the page source when I view it, it's not clear to me how the correct answer is discernible, though I may be missing something obvious, or students may be more motivated than I am at finding it =)

      With that info, I can create a bug for the Forms team, which may be a better path to fixing this

      What about comments 18, 28, so forth?

      All the people claiming that view source let kids cheat on forms that were, wrongly, created as regular forms not quizzes just won out?

      What a crock.

  11. Kyzer says:


    He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong—something that only pirates would do.

    This is Google's form. First they start hiding the full URL, then they stop letting you edit it without considerable effort, then they don't let you view source, and now you have Microsoft HTMLHelp on a kiosk, not a web browser that is your user agent.

    Once you're boycotting Google down to absolute zero... you can't boycott them harder every time they do another stupid and evil thing. And you still need a web browser of some sort. So the state of Mozilla today very much saddens me. They have totally lost all direction. The default Firefox install spies on you and shows you ads on every new tab (not just sponsored defaulting of the search engine to Google; it's Mozilla's own fucking ads!), and they seem to make decisions on where to allocate the resources based on 1) only what the spied-on users are doing and 2) whatever social justice topic is trendy this week. I know you ticked "don't ever show me marketing shit ever again", but we added a new checkbox "...not even if it's for a really good cause?" and defaulted it to "oh go on then".

    It's a marketing company that only tolerates those stinky techies so they can have "product". But at least nobody can turn off View Source in Firefox for now.

  12. bq Mackintosh says:

    "Computer people need to study ethics" is, I think, a pretty good condensation of the earnest portion of JWZ's writing.

    • Birdy says:

      More than simply study ethics, computer people need to want to have ethics in the first place. That, I suspect, is a much bigger problem with the industry.

      • Pakraticus says:

        Ages ago I took "business ethics" as a humanities filler for a computer engineering degree.
        And you can't teach ethics to someone whose paycheck relies on not having any.

        There was also a reason it was off the beaten path for CPEs...

        Ethics and aesthetics have to start in the home... and I have no damn clue what to do about homes where both are hated.

  13. Casaubon says:

    Simple solution to this issue: "Well, don't do that then!"

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