Thursday 10 June 2004

flash back

Found this while digging for files in search of something today. Recognize it? Maybe a TYS Movable Type book will go to the first person who:

  • Accurately describes to me which site I captured in this screen
  • Provides an interesting and accurate description of what’s happened in the years since
  • Points out aspects of the site’s design in the context of its time
  • Identifies the browser and browser version in which the page is being displayed
it's a picture of a web site from 1996 or so that someone has to guess

Deposit comments below.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   site admin | 05:23 | Comments (10)

Comments (10)

  1. OK, here’s some guesswork:

    The site is, home of the not-much-remembered but hugely important FutureSplash Web animation plugin; at the time there was no Flash (and we’ll see why in a moment), so if you wanted to do the sorts of things which today require it your best bet was FutureSplash.

    The site is wonderfully characteristic of its time, to me, for two reasons.

    First, the navigation in the frame on the left side of the screen (the first site I ever did for money, once upon a time, used the same trick). The allure, of course, was navigation that didn’t scroll away with the rest of the content and existed independent of the pages it was meant to help navigate through, and in that epoch most of us didn’t care about the usability concerns (bookmarks? We don’ need no steenking bookmarks!).

    Second, obviously, is the clipart. Nothing screams “90’s… IN… CYBERSPACE!!!!” like a clipart picture of a seal at what I assume is a typewriter. And to think we used to pay for CDs of the stuff.

    Since those golden days, futurewave has been swallowed up; it was bought out later that year (since I’m assuming this is ’97) by Macromedia, who retooled FutureSplash. For a while they kept it around on their site (at according to the Wayback Machine), but now the page for it returns a 404. Interestingly, the 404 document at the moment contains some text in Japanese which causes me to think fondly back on FutureSplash and its Great-Wave-of-Kanagawa-esque logo.

    Of course, old Web plugins never die — they just get rebranded. And FutureSplash got rebranded as a thing we now call Flash. Which, when you think about it, combines the unbookmarkability of frames with the ubiquitous “every site has to have it” nature of clipart, making it a fine and noble descendent of the FutureSplash lineage.

    As for the browser, I’ll guess Microsoft Internet Explorer 3, because I seem to remember it looking that awful, and I’m pretty sure it was the current version of IE at the time (I should mention here that I went to Google and typed in “Internet Explorer history” without realizing what sorts of things were likely to come up as results. Silly me).

    I must add that since I cheated a bit by using Google and the Wayback Machine I’ll disqualify myself from any offered prizes. But I did thoroughly enjoy the process of pulling it all together and the nostalgia of my early days on the Web… like my first love, I’ll always remember that first godawful site with the frames and the clipart. Thanks for the challenge.

  2. Do I get bonus points if I own a signed copy of the book you featured that screen shot in? 😉

  3. Matt, I don’t know what happened up above. I remember seeing the screenshot, and then everything’s a blank until I woke up much later. In another state.

    At which point it occurred to me that I overlooked the non-underlined links, which also date the site pretty well; that was really the only part of CSS anybody bothered with at the time. Sure, the folks who were working on it had this faraway look in their eyes and talked about how it would one day tap zero-point energy to achieve a fission of style and content, thus ensuring an enduring world peace and chocolate for everybody, but the only thing I cared about back then was that CSS let me take the underlines off my links. Suddenly all the other kids’ Geocities sites were beneath mine, and that was good enough for me.

    Now, of course, I’m hooked on the stuff. All that’s missing is the chocolate.

  4. James: What Matt said.

    Dave: No. 😉

  5. I remember doing two weeks work experience for a just formed ‘New Media’ company and one of my tasks while there was to design their website. One of the directors had just heard of FutureSplash and wanted part of the site to use it.

    So I came up with this full page menu with a big complex image in the background and funky glowing buttons on it. I’m glad I know better now!!

    And IIRC, Internet Explorer 3 was, at the time, the best browser you could get.

  6. Hi, Molly.

    Thanks for reminding me how much I hate FLASH. It’s the favorite tool of The Man. It seems every website with something to sell tries incessantly to download it to my system. Once in a while I make a mistake and it infects my computer, but I know its lair. The beast hisses and screams, but I always send it to alphabet heaven.

    And for those poorly designed sites whose only entry or navigation IS FLASH, tough. I’ll live w/o seeing their content, and they’ll live w/o my access.

  7. beautiful online information center. greatest work… thanks

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