The Shoudoka Browser is maybe the first mediator to be created on the internet. It is unbelievably old, unbelievably simple, and yet ingenious. It is one of the best examples of a truly useful CGI script i can think of.

The point behind Shoudoka is this: Not every computer can display Japanese text. Not a whole lot of the computers you're likely to come across out there have the fonts installed for the 2000 or so characters in the three Japanese alphabets, not all systems even have support for such fonts, and some browsers simply don't support the encodings (EUC-JP or shitft-JIS) that you use to communicate that text in web pages.

So if you find yourself on such a computer, and need to read a japanese web page, you simply go to the Shoudoka webpage, feed in the URL, and let the Shoudoka browser do its magic. What the Shoudoka browser does is load the page, interpret all the shift-JIS and EUC-JP, *turn the japanese text into images of japanese text*, slap a banner ad at the top, adjusts all the links on the page so that they feed back into shoudoka, and then sends you the result as a web page. Meaning you have a completely transparent way to read japanese text, with the characters prerendered for you, independent of where you are. Assuming you speak japanese. Shoudoka works, wonderfully; it is probably what inspired babelfish. The only problem is that because of all the images it can load somewhat slowly on older machines.

The really interesting bit is that it actually creates the images in real time-- each image is a single word, and is constructed in real time by the CGI script-- they literally have a CGI script that compiles GIF files by attaching together a number of GIFs of single letters into one, on the fly. As far as i am aware, this is the only example of such a thing on the entire internet. Really cool.

You can access the Shoudoka browser at

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