Browsers—the key software people use to explore the web—showed content, but with variations and limitations. Flash created a single toolset that worked across browsers, supporting consistent video and animation.
(upbeat music) - What Flash was, I mean originally, it was like a vector animating tool and it was amazing at that. I mean, it's always been strong at that. - Flash gave us more control than we had in CSS at the time. It gave us the ability to animate things, to move things around, to create more engaging experiences. To embed video on pages. - Like, you literally had websites that had been built by design agencies or whatever where you got a splash screen but the splash screen wasn't just to like, put the logo up.
It would just say, which browser are you using? they would build the same site twice, in effect. Once for Internet Explorer, once for Netscape, and if you click the wrong one, you could literally end up with a page that was almost completely unreadable. Because it just completely fell apart, because it had been designed for a different browser. - And then Flash kind of came along and was this thing where you're like, hey, if you have a Flash player, anyone who has this Flash player, they can download it and use it in any of their browsers as plugin. They will all see the same thing.
- What Flash did for a lot of people is using the timeline and people's ability to create and think; it's a lot like prototyping. So, how can you best think of something and feel it and then get it out, visually. So Flash, I think, as a toolkit, really enabled that process of a creative person to get it down and get it out. - Suddenly, there was just this wide open playground of things you could do, right? Like, you could have audio, you could have video, you could have things moving in like circles or, like it was just, it was kind of mind blowing in a way, right? You're like, what? I can do whatever I want, this is crazy.
- So that's the environment that Flash came into. So of course it was really... It was really appealing. - Once it happened, you had this multimedia tool set and a plugin to view it, and that was innovating faster and ahead of the browsers. So, that was an opportunity Macromedia ran with, and they had lots of distribution. Lot of people wanted to see a video or animation, they downloaded the plugin. And it got wide-spread adoption, especially on Windows. - It exactly inverted the web's fundamental setup.
So, the web, from its inception, prices ubiquity over consistency. The whole idea is that, I don't care what kind of device you have, if you have a thing that can consume httpa and html, you will get data and you'll get the content. Flash was exactly the opposite. Flash was an all or nothing experience. It was, if you have Flash, then you get the same experience. It'll all be consistent. And if you don't have a thing that will run Flash, you get nothing.
- Because Flash got so big, they weren't thinking about web design and web designers, so much anymore. Adobe was looking to push Flash on people who were making, like, games, who are making these, like, enterprise applications, but their attention was kind of turned away from web designers and the kind of things that web designers wanted. And when they turned their attention away from that, they started to lose that advantage of Flash working the same everywhere.
In the film, Matt Griffin knits together a narrative from dozens of conversations with important figures from throughout the web's history. He interviews Tim Berners-Lee, Denise Jacobs, Jeffrey Zeldman, Ethan Marcotte, Chris Wilson, Lyza Danger Gardner, Eric Meyer, Irene Au, Alex Russell, Trent Walton, Val Head, Jonathan Snook, and many more. The result is a series of unique insights about why the web is structured the way it is, why standards matter, how mobile disrupted everything, and why the web isn't done growing.