#76, learn what happens when you type a letter on your keyboard

April 2, 2017

This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my student, Eileen Clancy. The repository “What-happens-when” was started by Alex Gaynor on Git.Hub who explains that it: “is an attempt to answer the age old interview question ‘What happens when you type google.com into your browser and press enter?’ Except instead of the usual story, we’re going to try to answer this question in as much detail as possible. No skipping out on anything. This is a collaborative process, so dig in and try to help out! There’s tons of details missing, just waiting for you to add them! So send us a pull request, please!”

Before I share with you some of the details, I will highlight three important qualities of this project that probably go without saying:

  • It is another way to think through some of the questions with which I began this project, in #100hardtruths #1 on February 18: “What is the “real” internet? It is hard to see and thus hard to say. Is the internet the corporate overlay where the vast majority of us play? The protocols, controls and networks that underwrite this? The governments, corporations, and tech companies that own and write it?”
  • This hard work has to be done collectively (and in this case for free) and because people care enough to engage in a deeper understanding and sharing of answers
  • #fakenews is a complex amalgam of technological, cultural, corporate, semiotic, governmental, and ideological forces and interests. It produces pleasure and danger. There is no one guilty party, no easy antidote, and no one to fix or understand it but ourselves.

“The ‘g’ key is pressed: The following sections explains all about the physical keyboard and the OS interrupts. But, a whole lot happens after that which isn’t explained. When you just press “g” the browser receives the event and the entire auto-complete machinery kicks into high gear. Depending on your browser’s algorithm and if you are in private/incognito mode or not various suggestions will be presented to you in the dropbox below the URL bar. Most of these algorithms prioritize results based on search history and bookmarks. You are going to type “google.com” so none of it matters, but a lot of code will run before you get there and the suggestions will be refined with each key press. It may even suggest ‘google.com’ before you type it.”

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