Simon Willison’s Weblog


Thursday, 25th January 2024

Portable EPUBs. Will Crichton digs into the reasons people still prefer PDF over HTML as a format for sharing digital documents, concluding that the key issues are that HTML documents are not fully self-contained and may not be rendered consistently.

He proposes “Portable EPUBs” as the solution, defining a subset of the existing EPUB standard with some additional restrictions around avoiding loading extra assets over a network, sticking to a smaller (as-yet undefined) subset of HTML and encouraging interactive components to be built using self-contained Web Components.

Will also built his own lightweight EPUB reading system, called Bene—which is used to render this Portable EPUBs article. It provides a “download” link in the top right which produces the .epub file itself.

There’s a lot to like here. I’m constantly infuriated at the number of documents out there that are PDFs but really should be web pages (academic papers are a particularly bad example here), so I’m very excited by any initiatives that might help push things in the other direction. # 8:32 pm

iOS 17.4 Introduces Alternative App Marketplaces With No Commission in EU. The most exciting detail tucked away in this story about new EU policies from iOS 17.4 onwards: “Apple is giving app developers in the EU access to NFC and allowing for alternative browser engines, so WebKit will not be required for third-party browser apps.”

Finally, browser engine competition on iOS! I really hope this results in a future worldwide policy allowing such engines. # 8:19 pm

Inside .git. This single diagram filled in all sorts of gaps in my mental model of how git actually works under the hood. # 2:59 pm

Fairly Trained launches certification for generative AI models that respect creators’ rights. I’ve been using the term “vegan models” for a while to describe machine learning models that have been trained in a way that avoids using unlicensed, copyrighted data. Fairly Trained is a new non-profit initiative that aims to encourage such models through a “certification” stamp of approval.

The team is lead by Ed Newton-Rex, who was previously VP of Audio at Stability AI before leaving over ethical concerns with the way models were being trained. # 4:29 am