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In the dawn of time the internet was fresh and new, and everything in the World Wide Web was simple and straightforward. Web pages consisted of little else than text, inline images and links (to either other web pages or files).
Page design was usually pretty simple. For example, an online photo album would usually be a page with lots of small thumbnail versions of the photos, which were direct links to the full-size image files (usually JPEG; and in the early days of the WWW sometimes also GIF). In other words, you would just click the thumbnail image, and the web browser would then show you the full-size image, and that's it.
Likewise if a web page offered some other file, such as for example a compressed zip file containing something inside, the web page would simply have a direct link to the file itself, and that's it. You click the link, and the browser gets the file (asking you where to save it, or whatever). Straightforward and simple.
At some point some people decided that giving direct links to resources (images and other files) is way too easy. The initial motivation for making it less direct was to make it easier to keep download counts. (This would be rather moot because the HTTP server keeps a log of all requested files, and thus resolving how many times a certain file has been downloaded is as easy as counting how many times it appears in this log file. However, in the early days of the WWW, and in many cases even today, people did not have access to the HTTPD log file, or didn't even know it existed, and thus they had to implement other ways of counting how many times a file has been downloaded.)
For some reason this kind of indirection, ie. avoiding direct links to files, got really popular, to the point that it got completely out of hand.
This has got completely out of hand. We are in a situation where you simply can't just download a file or image, period, and instead you have to jump through hoops to get to the file, enable all kinds of things in your browser, and whatnot. This is often really irritating.
How hard can this be? For example, check my POV-Ray pictures page. It might not be fancy and well-designed, and it might not have all the bells and whistles, but it does its job: It's simple and straightforward, and you can check the full-size images as you wish, without having to jump through any hoops.
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