…ld Wide Web was tabs. Humans are incapable of true multi-tasking, and as a species we have trouble keeping much at all in our active memories. Depending on the language you speak, there’s somewhere between five and thirteen items you can keep in your head at once. The introduction of tabs into the toolbox of Web users single-handedly destroyed any hopes we may once have had of the Web being a source of infinite, global potential that could reach across borders and create a better, more meritocratic society.

It’s rare to come across a take so truly contrarian. It’s rare for me to deploy that adjective as a compliment! And yet I find myself nodding, obama-not-bad-face, damn.

I opened browser windows before I had a browser with tabs; in the days before whatever fun TCP multiplexing they have now, it helped maximize the juice I got out of our creaking dialup. I loved that when traversing Wikipedia, if your windows opened just to the right of the open window, you could go all the way down one depth-first rabbit hole and pop back up to the next path. Even if that non-linearity was less efficient somehow, I love it fiercely and I still haven’t given it up. I remember installing a Firefox extension that let you pick whether to open new tabs all the way to the right, and marveling at the different subjective experience of depth-first and breadth-first ante litteram1.

  1. ante litteram from my perspective only, obviously