In an earlier blog post I wanted to embed some diagrams. Really I wanted SVG for clean scaling between devices, but I don’t have that format as an output option.

What I did have, it turned out, was an option to embed an interactive 3D model.

Trouble is, I’m not a great fan of JavaScript where it’s not essential. I would prefer that everything works as well as is feasible with JavaScript turned off, rather than expecting people to enable it just so a page makes sense. And I dislike how JavaScript has the effect of making page load times longer and more jittery as things change their mind about where on the screen they want to be.

I also don’t think it’s good form to invite a bunch of different domains to come and run code on other people’s computers when they’re just trying to read something which is notionally just static text. That may be how the internet is, but I still don’t like it!

I do use and MathJax, but this site should still make sense to anyone who chooses to block those, or neglects to enable them. I should try harder to not enable them by default, I guess, but whatever… I also use GitHub and Cloudflare.

So anyway. Without resorting to JavaScript, what I’ve done is to create an iframe and embed a bit of inline HTML in it, and that inline HTML is just an image and a link dressed up like a button which you can click to activate the control. The link loads the actual embed in the iframe, but only when you click on it.

The user could do these things with their own browser extensions, taking responsibility for their own privacy, making their own choices, etc., but I just don’t want to be too deeply implicated in the horrors of the modern web in that way.

Now, I don’t presume to have any clue how to do these things correctly. It’s web stuff. It’s not my space. But I have, as is the Gold Standard™ in modern software development, cobbled together enough fragments from Stack Overflow to get something that “seems to work”. At least for me. Mostly.

I had trouble with using {% render %} where I thought I should have been able to, so I reverted to {% include %} which causes its own problems. And there were other problems, too. So many “why can’t I just do this the easy way like in the documentation?” moments.

But anyway, here’s the template in all its bumbling glory:

There’s plenty I haven’t bothered to fix. Like where to get the preview images. Mostly I still use the target site to deliver static thumbnails. That allows some measure of nefarious activity, I’m sure, but at least it doesn’t slow everything down with more JavaScript and a heap of noisy back-and-forth.

Also, since the user has already clicked the go button in order to load the embedded content, it’s better to use embed links which auto-start that content. This seems to work for YouTube, but no such luck with Scratch so far.

Here’s what’s then needed to embed a Shadertoy shader:

{% include shadertoy.liquid id='clB3RK' %}

(using: shadertoy.liquid)

And the result looks like this:

The default here is to get the preview image from that site. That’s probably fine, right?

An embedded Scratch app:

This frustrates me a little because the embed doesn’t contain a link to the project, and also because I haven’t worked out how to get autoplay working. I’m also getting the preview from their site. The platform has its own internal “native” resolution of 480x360, and that’s how it renders the preview, but it’s mostly vector graphics so it scales nicely once it’s loaded.

Except for things drawn with the pen extension. Those stay at 480x360 and get ugly scaling.

Something from Tinkercad:

Tinkercad embeds don’t provide an easy-to-find preview image, so I’ve had to make my own and store them locally. Which is fine because I should really store all previews locally anyway.

And, of course, YouTube (source):

Gets the preview from YouTube by default. This turns out badly for old videos or 4:3 videos or something. Note that the use of the domain probably stops this video appearing in your view history. I’ll have to check that some time.

But the greatest frustration of all is that while I do have the option of putting a misleading preview image in place, I can’t embed a rickroll, because YouTube blocks embedding of every instance of that video that I can find.

Future work

  • do CSS correctly, or whatever
  • a stop button
  • turn off other frames when you activate a new one (ie., don’t play five youtube videos at once)
  • automatically populate local preview store while the site is being built? (stealing other sites’ assets)
  • controls could be nicer, but I resent being forced to make style decisions I would rather be in the hands of the user, and not me