In the early days of the internet, multimedia effects were not a simple thing to accomplish. I can remember having to make specific graphics for down states and up states for buttons, and doing clever manipulations with tables to get a page to display in a way that made it more interactive than HTML really had the ability to support. Everybody, though, was clamoring to get a website although nobody seemed to really know what that meant. More or less, it was, for businesses, rather like a telephone book listing with pictures. Flash occupied a place in history when Real Time video had little existence other than through Quicktime which was, to my memory, an Apple player. Flash allowed a person to make animations and interactive sites. It did this by not being HTML but being a plugin that one could embed in HTML. As a consequence, everyone dreaded seeing the “flash loading” on a website. Of course, this was not really entirely true. We dreaded seeing the “Flash loading” or “plugin needed” on a website we did not expect to have Flash content. Places like Albino Black Sheep and Newgrounds had plenty of Flash, and nobody complained because it was the nature of those sites to make videos. An example of one that made the rounds in 2004 that is typical of the Adobe Flash Style is the JibJab Kerry/Bush video which went viral. (something I would later, in a roundabout way, need for my dissertation on viral videos and marketing)
Before the day of Flash, though, there was Hypercard. Hypercard was a Macintosh-quasi-powerpoint like application that allowed one to make “stacks of interactive cards” that one could use to “program” a presentation. Supposedly, the inspiration for this program came from someone’s acid trip, and no, I am not making that up. The game Myst was supposedly inspired by Hypercard, and was programmed in a stack. People had large piles of these they saved and more than a few communites sprang up around them. Then, something happened to Hypercard that also would later happen to Flash, they were both discontinued.
Beginning Technology Stuff
Many beginners in programming though, loved Hypercard and Flash. The reason this was so is easy to surmise–quick results were easier to achieve with these two applications. The focus was on being user-friendly, and the approach was more heavily visual than code based. Programmers, however, hated both and indeed at the nexus of the end of these two pieces of software lies a common name–Steve Jobs. The replacements for these applications, however, was not forthcoming. Indeed, there is still a gigantic hole in the market where these two pieces of software resided. Sure, if you want to pay enough money, you can get close, but that really defeats the purpose of easy-to-use software. If the cost for ease is a trillion dollars, then it might as well be as difficult to master as C++.
Results Of The Death of Flash and Hypercard
The result of the deaths of Flash and Hypercard is that everyone who wishes to do something similar nowadays needs to learn an entire pile of code for something like HTML5 with Canvas support. There really is not, to my knowledge, anything that interacts like the above programs to make compliant sites using those standards unless you happen to live on an oil well. The death of Hypercard resulted in many clones and users trying to find ways to run the stacks they had invested in along with a wish for its return. The death of Flash has resulted in millions upon millions of hours of created content being unusable or needing to be adapted in some way or another to remain viewable. So, for using those programs, the users were hosed. The Apple Store, however, managed to make the barrier to entry quite high and getting rid of these two technologies has the quite–I am sure–“accidental” effect of making sure that “normal people” would not be creating much by way of content that could possibly go in such a store. The changes, of course, were made in the interests of “security” but the reality is many users who spent hours upon hours with these pieces of software were screwed, and the “new technology” that was rolled out served a very definite Priesthood of Coders.
Now we have moved on into the age of the trustless web. Sounds about right, right? The next movement will be the “shotgun in your car at all times” trustless driving age otherwise known and shown in the film(s) Mad Max. The trustless web runs on blockchains and is by nature paranoid. Traffic is encrypted end-to-end, and decentralized identities that are not obviously tied to any one person are more the norm than the exception. Hell, as of basically a week ago, we are working on de-platforming an entire country! About the only thing half-way interesting to anyone doing anything artistic are NFT’s, and even those are trying to push the boundaries of what art actually is. Just because, for instance, I take a picture of your car or piece of art, one does not necessarily therefore have something that is “creatively theirs” but an NFT blurs those boundaries. Who owns what? Why? How?
For my part, I made an NFT of the front cover of my meditation book that acts as a token for an exclusive interview that I have pre-recorded concerning the making of said book. Since I am not going to hand this video out to 20 people, it is therefore rare and exclusive content which adds to the value of the token. It is rare because it is limited. It is up for auction at rarible.com.
What makes this a little different than the above Hypercard and Flash situation is that as long as blockchains exist, this item will exist. If someone places the hash that points at the address it resides on on the respective blockchain to which it belongs on IPFS, it will not go away unless blockchains and IPFS go away, which would probably mean that the entirety of the internet would be gone. Nothing is permanent, as it is said, but a house built of stone is probably going to be around a lot longer than a house made of wood all other conditions being equal.
Programmers And Artists
While I see programming as an art, I also see Art as an art and I think that the web is big enough for both. I do not see a need to kill out the hypercards of the world or the Adobe Flash Players. Nobody is forcing anyone to go to sites that choose one technology or another. It is not necessary for us all to agree on the technological stack and methodologies we intend to use anymoreso than it is necessary for us to agree that we must all take the exact same steps to take a brush to a canvas to render a painting. At this point, we are re-doing the web because it turns out we cannot trust people, but then again, did we not notice all the locks and guns in the world before the web? Who was it that thought we would be just one big, peaceful village as a world? Short of Messianic intervention, that ain’t gonna happen. The good news there is that I would say we are much closer to that than we ever have been. To fix a trustless web, the networking administrator just might have to be God. The problem is not the stack, or the technology. It is people, power, and greed. The normal way we solve that is we blow each other up with nuclear weapons of one kind or another, feel bad about it later, then do it all over again in about twenty years or so. I cannot think of a more trustless web than that.