by Rob Ford
I have been following almost every noteworthy Flash site launch since the late 1990s. Over that time, I have witnessed many comings and goings and read many sweeping statements about Flash and its longevity, and I would say that 2010 was a year in point for Flash. As we all know, Apple does not currently allow Flash on its iPhone or iPad, and we have heard many people lauding HTML5 as the next Flash killer. Remember Silverlight’s launch with headlines such as "Microsoft unveils Silverlight as Flash killer"? Well, the latest headlines read more like this: "Microsoft Corp. drops Silverlight platform for HTML5."
The reality is that Flash is stronger than ever as the weapon of choice to create the most memorable, exciting, and interactive experiences online. HTML5 has great potential as a standalone way of creating websites or for working hand in hand with other tools like Flash. If you look in any great workman’s toolkit, you will see more than one tool.
Flash on mobile is also an exciting development for smartphones and tablets. I believe apps will ultimately give way to mobile browser sites and experiences.
The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and the following amazing and unforgettable experiences, which are all new for 2011, demonstrate why Flash is still the ultimate force.
Site by RED Interactive Agency
Many of you will probably remember the RED Universe site from May 2007, an agency site that created a world where visitors could run, fly, chat, dance, and even punch each other in the face. At the time, I remember thinking that the idea had legs and something even better could come from it. Needless to say, I was delighted to see the same agency take its own idea to a new level that I didn’t quite expect for two of the world’s best-known brands: LEGO and Star Wars. This site is a real-time multiplayer experience where you get to learn about the latest LEGO Star Wars video game while you take control of a Star Wars character and work collectively to solve puzzles. You can become Yoda, Darth Vader, or one of several other characters from the film. With an idea like this, you need a lot of people on the site at any one time, and this site easily achieves that because the fan base for both these brands is huge.
To see the video reel demonstration of this site, visit http://www.thefwa.com/site/lego-star-wars-iii-website and click REEL.
Site by Secret Location
This site is an online extension of History TV’s docudrama, “Storming Juno,” which is dedicated to Canadian soldiers. As you enter the site, you are thrown up onto Juno Beach, Normandy, on D-Day with an impressive 360-degree rotating view of the beach at that time. The atmosphere this site creates is truly incredible. It’s an absolute must-see experience. Throughout the site, you have the option to expand content for more in-depth information, photos, biographies, and more. The historical value of sites like this is priceless, and schools should be using them to educate the next generation.
Many years ago, we saw sites that used multiple pop-up windows to create innovative experiences. There was a flood of them, and they soon lost value and credibility. I welcome their recent resurgence because it seems that past experiences have taught so much. The ones I am seeing now are innovative, original, and unforgettable.
This is an interactive music video for the Japanese band SOUR. With this site, you must use the Chrome browser. If you don’t have Chrome installed, you can still visit this site and watch the video version instead. You also need to connect with Facebook, Twitter, and/or a webcam. It’s really worth connecting because what follows is truly inspiring. One final tip is that you should not click any of the pop-up windows. Just leave them where they are, and by closing the main window at the end, all the others will close as well.
To see the video reel demonstration of this site, visit http://www.thefwa.com/site/sour-mirror and click REEL.
Site by Jim Hall
This is a music sequencer for constructing street layouts that generates tunes. This is a pure experimental delight that shows amazing attention to detail. It is a great example of the power of one person who has an idea and devotes passion and time to make it a reality. These are the types of projects that excite me — projects that are made by one person with no motive other than to be creative. Ideas like these can really take off, and this one certainly did. As the creator himself says, “There really is no purpose to it. Just play about and create something.” This has a Sim City feel to it in that you lay down sections of road, houses, trees, and so forth and then drop your car onto the newly created road. As the car drives around, it plays a tune. Simple but great. You can even save your own islands, which become part of a bigger gallery that all users can browse.
This is a web and mobile game for Chris Paul’s Jordan CP3.IV signature shoes. It’s called a “performance simulator” or, in layman’s terms, a side-scrolling game. The controls are very easy. Just use your space bar to activate any of the power-ups. The quality of this game is superb, and it reacts to every interaction exactly the way you think it would. You can sign into Facebook to challenge your friends as well. But I should warn you that this game is very addictive and could take up a fair bit of your time.
To see the video reel demonstration of this site, visit http://www.thefwa.com/site/cp3k and click REEL.
Site by Kokokaka
Have you ever explored a website in four dimensions? Here’s your chance to do just that. Use your mouse to drag from left to right or up and down for some very impressive views of the latest fashions from Burberry. What I find most exciting about this site is that we are starting to see how the future might unfold in the digital world where we get to see things in ways we’ve never even imagined. This could be the early stages of something that becomes an industry standard.
To see the video reel demonstration of this site, visit http://www.thefwa.com/site/burberry-digital-experience-aw2010 and click REEL.
Site by K2 Internet
We have all seen sites where you can upload your face to become the star of a movie. Why am I featuring another one here? Quite simply because this one really grabbed my attention, and I think it hits the target audience perfectly. When you enter this site, you can choose from one of five different video scenarios: rock, club, metal, pop, or hip hop. Make your selection, upload your face, and enjoy. You can even check me out giving it large in the club version at http://experience.mtvnhd.com/eaa4bb.
To see the video reel demonstration of this site, visit http://www.thefwa.com/site/mtvnhd-experience-the-music and click REEL.
Site by Little Suckers
I must warn you that you need a Flash enabled smartphone to view this mobile Flash portfolio site. This is one of the first wave of sites created for Flash mobile specifically. It’s a simple little portfolio site with nice transitions. Some might ask what’s so special about it. It’s the fact that people are now making sites purely for Flash enabled devices, as they did back in the late 1990s when Flash really started to take off for web browsers. I look forward to seeing more examples like this or any Flash dedicated mobile content, so let me know if you have created or seen any Flash mobile projects.
I believe 2011 has started as one of the most impressive years for Flash in a long time. In January, my team at FWA had a difficult time choosing a Site of the Month because we had so many amazing sites to choose from. I hope this new momentum grows throughout 2011 — and on mobile — because I can feel a tipping point again for Flash, much as I did in 2000 when I set up FWA.
Rob Ford founded The FWA Network in May 2000 and since then the network has received over 150 million visits. The FWA Network showcases projects that use cutting edge technology for desktop, mobile and offline, together with showcases for photography as well as video. Rob is also the author of three bestselling books of web and mobile. Check out The FWA Network.