Chances are if you can read this sentence you are using a graphical web browser, and haven’t tried to visit a website any other way. Not that people don’t do that, in fact in recent years the “non graphical” web browsing experience has received a few surprising boosts which have increased it’s popularity somewhat.
A non graphical web browser can fit into a few different categories:
- Command line interface only
- Command line launched with non X rendered graphics
- Command line launched with X rendered limited graphics
- Graphical launched with minimal graphics
Some of these include: elinks, lynx, links, w3m, Zen, mutt, and for email or instant messaging through services like twitter, pine, and freetalk. (Curl and wget have retrieval of text options as well)
A minimal browser launched from a graphics environment might be – dillo, or if we’re being very liberal… Opera.
Running any operating system in strictly command line mode turns off the graphical systems in a way that requires a prompt to re-initialize them. In Linux for example: Holding control, alt, F3 can disable the graphics environment and generally control, alt F8 can reinitialize it. In other cases typing “startx” is adequate to restart the entire desktop if it relies on the X server. (Control alt backspace in some cases as well.)
So what would be the point of turning off the graphics and then running a browser?
Not spending disk space or system resources. This isn’t an everyday concern, but in rare instances it can be crucial to whatever task the computer might be doing.
Not surprisingly many distributions of Linux, BSD, and similar OS – are used for servers, and have no need for a desktop environment at all. So the question might be just as valid in the reverse on some machines. In any case people still need to access the internet from such machines or machines in those states of configuration – Like they do on Arch Linux.
On installation of Arch Linux you are several steps away from having a graphical environment at all – full stop.
In many cases the users are running on low powered machines and even post installation they don’t necessarily want a full graphics environment. But that doesn’t mean it’s common, or even preferable to do this.
A graphical user interface is something that some Linux and BSD users scoff at needing once they are familiar enough with the command line, some going as far as to quietly shun it’s necessity altogether. Many users of specialized distributions consider Arch Linux an environment that doesn’t need a GUI and consider that better somehow.
So is having no GUI the “Arch” way?
In every experience the end user will ultimately decide individually but ultimately well over 80% of every distribution ends up with a GUI including most of the servers so absolutely no – it isn’t.
It’s a nice way to tinker in a basement when you have nothing better to do on a Friday night possibly, but it doesn’t actually require any special skill aside from downloading a few non graphical browsers – and that doesn’t qualify anyone to do anything.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t cool though.