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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

On Flash and bookmarking and the web

posted: Jun 20, 2003 8:59:15 PM

In a post yesterday, I made a little comment about Flash websites not supporting bookmarking. This got picked up and commented on, even by John Dodwell of Macromedia.

John's comments should put to rest the fact that it is technically possible to create anchors in Flash movies to support bookmarking, and he links to documentation on how to do it.

More importantly I think, John makes good points and asks good questions about whether it actually makes sense to bookmark and navigate directly to particular states in interactive Flash movie / applications. I agree with what he says and think he is asking the right questions.

The point I was getting at in my last post was more like interactive movie / applications, Flash or otherwise, aren't exactly websites that support things like the bookmarking of web pages. And, what I mean by this as a critique is, if you are trying to create a website that supports things like the bookmarking of web pages, it doesn't often (usually?, ever?) make sense to create an all-Flash website.

I definitely have a belief that a foundation of what makes the web the web is largely text and, in particular, the ability to get at URLs for discreet pages and fragments of pages. So, when I see a technology like netomat (which I was comparing to Flash in the post yesterday) that seems to encourage the creation of "websites" that don't seem to support this concept of a text foundation, I question whether that technology is off-kilter in this regard.

(Netomat seems to be a specific application whose website output is all-multimedia, without the potential that Flash has of creating movies that co-exist with HTML web pages.)

So, I might be wrong about the primacy of this text foundation of the web, or maybe shortsighted about its endurance. I try not to be too much of a fundamentalist about it. But, I continue to be impressed with how much more the text I have added to the web has endured past the graphics I have added to the web. At least for now.

With Flash or netomat or any other web multimedia tool, I think there is a great appeal to individuals' desire for self-expression—especially if the tools make it really easy to create trivial things fast—and real art with some work. And, such possibilities should provide good online social opportunities, e.g., send your friends trivial multimedia, or make real art.

But, I also think that online things that are not as easy to share and link to as web page text limits online social interactions, i.e., they limit linking and sharing! And, I also think that even the text and multimedia on web pages needs to be easier to get at and share, which is why I am creating the iCite net.

(At least in the application sense, I am sure that it will be possible to create Flash iCites as well, and I even have some specific ideas for good uses of Flash in particular with iCites.)

So, when Flash movie / applications don't really have pages or page fragments, it is hard (seemingly impossible, in my experience) to work with them as if they do have pages and page fragments. But, if they are movies or applications, they don't need to be designed around concepts like pages or page fragments.

I think that I myself, like a lot of web developers who do not specialize in Flash movies, have had a relatively bad experience of, say, executive management folks misunderstanding the implications of Flash in relationship to the page / page fragment ecosystem of the web. I don't hold it against Flash as a technology, and, frankly, I don't think I even appreciated how disorienting web pages are to many people until I read David Weinberger's description in his Small Pieces Loosely Joined of web pages as simultaneously both documents and buildings.

So, Flash happens to be comparable to the pre-web paradigms of interactive multimedia (e.g., CD-ROMs) and broadcast media (e.g., movies). And, a number of companies I have worked for have seen the web as being a way to deliver movies (TV commercials to be more precise) to their customers, and maybe those movies have some interactive features (like, buy our product NOW!). From this perspective, Flash has a lot of appeal.

So, how many companies have you worked for where the executives come in and say: "We want to make sure our new website has pages that are easy to bookmark and to grab URLs from, and some interactive movies would be nice, but make sure they don't interfere with bookmarking and URL grabbing."?

That is pretty rare still, I think. But, I think a lot of bloggers and people interested in social software and even total online marketers looking for search engine hits are already thinking that way.

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trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Jun 30, 2003 3:14:19 PM
title: Sushi game, nice Flash

I wanted to make a point to link to what I think is a really exemplary use of Flash.

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