Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Death of Flyp brings back memories of Balthaser's original website and the idea that the web would be animated

The AP reported a couple of days ago that Flyp Media would be shutting down its online magazine due to a lack of funding, and the inability of the online magazine to survive on its generated ad revenue alone.
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Flyp represents on one side of the electronic publishing world, an example of the idea that web publishing should incorporate multimedia, Flash generated content, and the like, to create a more engaging, interactive, animated publication. The other side would argue that the web is a search and find medium that does not lend itself to leisure reading.

Way back in the early days of Shockwave and the Internet, the design studio Balthaser created a web site that blew a lot of people away with its wild animation. Founded in February 1999, the studio's original Balthaser web site is still online -- sort of like a displayed relic in an exhibition of the history of the Internet. Of course, part of the experience, back in 1999, was waiting the ten to fifteen minutes necessary on your dial-up connection for the animation to load before your ten inch screen finally jumped to life.
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The original 1999
Balthaser web site.

I was working at McGraw-Hill in The City in '99 and those were the days of The Industry Standard, VC funding, rooftop parties at Internet start-ups, IPOs, full employment, a booming economy, and a Federal budget surplus -- in other words, it was a long time ago.

Back in 1999 I thought Balthaser was on to something -- maybe this crazy web site was the future of the Internet. A few of my admittedly old school colleagues thought it was fun but totally a gimmick. In the end, I suppose they were right. The web was not going down that road.

Ten years later, here we have another company demonstrating the future of web publishing, clearly on the side of the argument that says the web can be the kind of place envisioned by that first Balthaser web site.

Today we have the iPad, and the promise of tablet publishing, where readers will surely spend more time with their electronic publications -- as they do with print. Was the proper place for an electronic publication like Flyp on a tablet? Maybe, but then there is that whole Flash issue, right?