30th June 2006

An email lands in my inbox from Kristan Jiles at Adobe. Kristan draws my attention to 9th August 2006, being the 10th Anniversary of Flash and very kindly invites me to their anniversary event on the same date in San Francisco.

Kristan also enquires about running a community style competition through the FWA website and this peaked my attention.

Being a workaholic and chained to my PC running the FWA project every day, I knew that I would never make it to San Francisco for the event but I knew that FWA would love to be a part of this special birthday of Flash.

I threw out an email to people close to FWA and the response was simple… we will run a poll to establish what the most influential Flash site has been in the last 10 years.

Other ideas included getting our visitors to design Flash animations and the like but we realised very quickly that this would only focus on a tiny percentage of the Flash community and for something to be interesting to all, it had to be accessible to all.

So, a Flash poll would be something everyone could participate in.

We decided to pull a list together as far back as we could go of sites that were still live right back from 1996.

It soon became apparent that sites from 1996 and 1997 were scare and even after running a request through the FWA website we could only muster up a few sites that were literally just "made" with Flash.

The decision was made to start the polls from 1998 as this was when the first wave of Flash sites started mushrooming.

We would run individual polls for each year, starting from 1998, and then the winner from each year would go into a final poll in a one week poll to establish "The Most Influential Flash Site Of The Decade".

The quest began to pull together a list of four sites from each year. Why only four sites? Because for a poll to work, the more options you have, the less interest you get. We felt that we could highlight the best four sites from each year without a problem. Having been focused on cutting edge web design and mainly Flash since 1997, I was confident that we could select the best sites for each year's poll.

Problems soon became apparent when we could not find original versions of sites, like Gabocorp. We had to make the decision that sites would need to be live in order to feature in the polls as many new users of the web would not be able to identify with sites by name only.

This meant that we had to write to a number of individuals and companies to ask them to put up archived versions of sites so that we could feature them and, thankfully, many of them did.

Finding Gabocorp

Gabocorp gave us the biggest headache as we knew it was one of the first sites to get people psyched up for using Flash. We spent over two weeks trying to track Gabo down and it wasn't until after the polls had begun that we had a break through.

James Baker from WDDG (also behind the original Flash Challenge showcase site), emailed me about Gabocorp and sent me the swf of Gabo's site that he had on his hard drive from back in the days when he had hunted it down himself. This enabled us to put the original version online again on the FWA server.

Then, the second breakthrough came when I remembered a conversation with Fredo Silva, formerly of Who's We Studios, saying that he was working with Gabo himself. An email to Fredo gave me Gabo's current email address.

As Gabocorp was the only site from 1996-1997 that was an example of the next level in web design, we made the decision to give it an immediate place in the final vote rather than putting it up against other attempts at using Flash for the same year. Basically, there was no contest for 1997.

Gabo's reaction:

"I really appreciate you guys taking the time to contact me (apparently I'm not the easiest guy to get a hold of). Anyways, it would be an honor if my work was mentioned in your polls, though I have to admit, it is so weird to see it again after all these years."

The list was compiled and sent through to Adobe and we then confirmed with them how we would run the whole poll project and made sure they were happy with our idea.

Once we had the approval from Adobe we got to work emailing all the sites we planned to include in the polls, to let them know what would be happening and then set about building simple pages for each year's poll.

We decided that the individual year polls would run for two days each, with the final poll running for a week. With the amount of traffic the FWA site receives, we were confident that we could furnish enough eyes on each poll rather than run them for longer periods of time. As we had ten polls to get through, we didn't want to run this project for more than a month and risk people losing interest.

The poll pages were made, archived versions of sites were put online, marketing of the project through the FWA website, newsletter and Adobe Flash Anniversary page, plus a news blast to my powerful contact list meant that we had an instant viral going on when we launched the Round 1 poll for 1998 on 7th August 5 p.m. PST to tie in with Adobe's own announcement.

1998 – The Sites

EYE4U - http://www.eye4u.com/home/

NRG.BE - http://www.nrg.be/archived/

Turtles'hell - http://www.1998.turtleshell.com/

Matinee - http://www.matinee.co.uk/site2/fr_nmd.htm

The whole poll project took off like a storm. Getting linked all over the world and receiving visitors from over 130 countries in its first day, with mentions on the likes of MSNBC.com, news.com and all the main web design portals and forums, the world over, we received some amazing statistics for the first poll:

- 1998 poll page received over 85,000 visitors for the voting period alone

- 1998 poll received 22,312 unique votes in just over 2 days

1998 – The Winner

After all the votes were tallied, a winner emerged with 9080 votes (40.7% of the total vote count).

The Most Influential Flash Site of 1998 was then confirmed as:

NRG.BE - http://www.nrg.be/archived/

1998 – Winner's Reaction

And here's the reaction of the site's owner and designer, Peter Van den Wyngaert:

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the kind of impact my little 1998 demo site would have created, and the kind of inspiration it brought for many creatives (and copycats) out there.

Even after 8 years, I'm still stunned by poll results as the one of the FWA/Adobe, and the fact that people still remember my site.

Here's a little history, which I have never revealed before:

My initial Flash 3 website went live on April 30th 1998, replacing a 3 year old HTML portfolio, and exactly one month after Flash 3 was released.

I had been playing with FutureSplash & Flash2 many times before, but due to the limitations of those programs, I was never really satisfied with the results.

The release time of Flash 3 was perfect, because I needed a new site no matter what, and tossed it together in just 3 weeks in the little spare time I had. I find it still amazing that you could create such a site with software so easy to use and just based on creativity (no coding!) and no previous 'animation knowledge'. I have always disliked ActionScript btw, even today :)

NRG.BE got a Shocked Site of the Day award on July 17th 1998, and went instantly from 50 visitors a day to 25.000 visitors, thanks to Macromedia’s exposure. Eight years, many awards, and about 5 million unique visitors later, I decided to update it for the first time into what I have online now, to showcase my nowadays work.

What made the 1998 version revolutionary: shape tweening with easing in & out + shape hinting which gave a natural feeling to the unusual interface & logo transitions. Probably also the fact of the unique graphical style I developed and using voice-overs on a website, I had never seen & heard that before on the internet."

1999 – The Sites

Mono*crafts – http://yugop.com/ver2/

Neostream Interactive v1 – http://www.neostream.com/1neo/

David Gary Studios v1 – http://www.davidgarystudios.com/v1/

The Void - http://www.thevoid.co.uk

As the 1999 poll got underway we received an email from Luke of The Void, asking us to change the link for his site as the traffic the poll had generated had taken his server down and his site offline.

It later transpired that his server had in fact been hacked, which pretty much ruined his chances of winning the 1999 poll as The Void's site was down for nearly 15 hours.

However, it soon became apparent that the eventual 1999 winner would win by a landslide anyway.

1999 – The Winner

After all the votes were tallied for 1999, The Most Influential Flash Site of 1999 with 8340 votes (51.07% of the total votes polled, 16332), was then confirmed as:

Mono*crafts – http://yugop.com/ver2/

1999 – Winner's Reaction

Yugo Nakamura's reaction to the news:

"Thank you for selecting my site in such a nice contest. It has been a long time since I myself saw my old site, and felt so nostalgic..."

At the Tokyo Web Creator's party on 14th August 2006, Yugo's Mono*crafts' site was much talked about. Japan is very proud of Yugo Nakamura and his influence on the web since the early days.

2000 – The Sites

Lookandfeel new media - http://www.lookandfeel.com/index.asp

Barney's New York - http://www.joshuadavis.com/02_web/2000/barneys_new_york/barneys_archive/

John Mark Sorum - http://www.wddg.com/jms/

Yigal Azrouel - http://www.firstbornmultimedia.com/websites/027_yigal1/flashpage.htm

We were lucky in this round to be able to get the John Mark Sorum site put back online by the guys at WDDG. It was also fortunate that other pioneering sites from 2000 were archived as well.

This round of voting would prove to be the closest so far and the most difficult for people to make their mind up on. Comments in forums, such as the threads at Ultrashock and Newstoday would confirm this very statement.

2000 – The Winner

After all the votes were tallied for 2000, The Most Influential Flash Site of 2000 with 5144 votes (33.75% of the total votes polled, 15240), was then confirmed as:

John Mark Sorum - http://www.wddg.com/jms/

A site that still holds up well today and one that boasted future thinking transitions.

2000 – Winner's Reaction

Reaction from WDDG the design and development team of John Mark Sorum was short but emotional:

"holy shit!".

2001 – The Sites

Starbreeze Studios - http://www.fantasy-interactive.com/starbreeze/

Tongsville - http://www.tongsville.com/city/

WM Team v1 - http://www.wmteam.de/intro_swf/index2.html

2Advanced Studios v3 "Expansions" - http://v3.2a-archive.com/

As the news of the Flash 10th Anniversary polls spread across the web, more and more forums covered the topic.

It was interesting to follow some of the threads as people tried to second guess what would win each year's poll before the results were up.

It was also interesting to look at the FWA site statistics to see how people were trying to access the future year's polls that were not live yet. A few people managed to work out the hidden URLs, but not many.

From reading forum posts it was clear who people thought would win the 2001 poll and they were correct. In fact it would be the biggest percentage winner so far…

2001 – The Winner

The Most Influential Flash Site of 2001 with 8046 votes (60.82% of the total votes polled, 13230), was then confirmed as:

2Advanced Studios v3 "Expansions" - http://v3.2a-archive.com/

2001 – Winner's Reaction

The reaction from Eric Jordan, President / Chief Creative Officer:

"It is truly an honor to know that people regard 2advanced V3 as an influential mark in the evolutionary timeline of Flash, and to think that we had some role to play in the history of a very exciting time for the Internet."

I must take time to make a note here that not only was this the most influential website of 2001 but it would also go on to become the most copied web design in the history of the web. Obviously, the level of influence was too much for some people.

2002 – The Sites

Marines -

Neostream Interactive - http://www.neostream.com/

Who's We Design Studios - http://www.whoswestudios.com/flashsite.html

Yulia Nau - http://wireframe.co.za/yulia/splash.htm

You'll note that as each year passes the change in terms of what can be achieved using Flash gets more obvious.

The sites for 2002 were all exceptional yet very different. The Marines site (thanks to Google we managed to find an online version of this site that even the designers did not know about) was a previous FWA Site Of The Year. Whilst Neostream was a previous FWA People's Choice Award winner.

Who's We was a winner in the May 1st Reboot and Yulia Nau was such a popular site that it spent most of its early months going offline because of bandwidth issues.

2002 – The Winner

With 53.43% (7301 votes) of the vote, a clear winner for 2002 would be:

Neostream Interactive - http://www.neostream.com/

2002 – Winner's Reaction

Johnny Choi, Director and Co-Founder of Neostream had the following to say on receiving the news:

"Neostream is very much delighted and honored to have been picked the most influential site of 2002. We'd like to thank FWA and Adobe for organizing such a meaningful event and also to the voting fans who have acknowledged our work.

It means a lot to us that a piece of creative hard work can inspire young talents and we are proud to have played a small part in promoting the industry.

We wish to accept this acknowledgement not just for ourselves but also on behalf of all other participating members. We are just honored to be included within such a creative pool.

Thank you once again. This is more fuel for us to strive further."

2003 – The Sites

Road Runner - http://www.rr.com/flash/

tokyoplastic v1 - http://www.tokyoplastic.com/tokyoplastic1.html

Johnny Hollow - http://www.johnnyhollow.com/

Identity - http://www.bigspaceship.com/archive/identity/

This would be a year when Flash started moving in lots of different directions as can be seen in this list of sites for 2003.

Road Runner taking Flash to new levels with a 100% Flash portal and handling massive amounts of content with apparent ease.

tokyoplastic managed to deliver a totally unique web presence with their vector based 3D figures and animations.

Then we had Johnny Hollow and Identity, two sites which pumped out atmosphere in a big way.

2003 – The Winner

With 5252 votes (36.07% of the total 14560 votes), a site that has continued to grown and be further developed by the team at Fantasy Interactive:

Road Runner - http://www.rr.com/flash/

2003 – Winner's Reaction

Fantasy Interactive's reaction to the news of winning for 2003:

"FI is extraordinarily honored to be considered among such an impressive group of finalists. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Flash from a very early stage and to have been a part of realizing the next generation internet experience. We wish all the finalists the best and look forward to what the future holds."

2004 – The Sites

Vodafone Future Vision - http://www.vodafone.com/flash/futures/

PDK - http://www.pdk.pl/index_feng.html

Billy Harvey Music - http://www.billyharveymusic.com/

Carl de Keyzer - http://www.carldekeyzer.com/

One of the toughest years so far, in terms of quality Flash sites. The groundbreaking Vodafone Future Vision site was released in January of 2004 and immediately had everyone talking.

The slick and dynamic PDK had huge impact overnight.

Whilst Billy Harvey grabbed everyone's attention with his personality packed site.

Not forgetting Carl de Keyzer's awe-inspiring photography wrapped up in one hell of a intuitive interface.

2004 – The Winner

Totaling 5766 votes (36.2% of the vote), the first site ever to win FWA Site Of The Year and People's Choice Award in the same year:

Vodafone Future Vision - http://www.vodafone.com/flash/futures/

2004 – Winner's Reaction

Roger Stighall, Co-Founder of North Kingdom, the agency behind this massive production, gave the following reaction:

"Future Vision has been one phenomenal story. It was the first big international project North Kingdom did, and the results have been unreal. It feels great that this piece has made such an impact and mark on the use of storytelling and Flash. And being judged by the people, and not only by a jury, makes nominations like these feel even better."

North Kingdom's Creative Director, David Eriksson, added:

"Wow! This is huge for us! It is almost unreal to be mentioned among many other sites that have inspired our work. Thanks to everyone who voted for us and that have enjoyed The Vodafone Future Vision."

2005 – The Sites

Leo Burnett – http://www.leoburnett.ca

Comcastic – http://www.comcastic.com/

Corpse Bride Movie – http://www.corpsebridemovie.com

Saab Animal Vision – http://www.lowetesch.com/showroom/saab/animalvision/GLOBAL/en/

The Leo Burnett Canada web presence would set new standards for agency sites and would eventually go on to be their global web presence as well.

Comcastic… well, just a wonderfully clever and fun site that would capture the imagination of so many. How about we design a website where you can ring a number from your mobile phone and get a puppet to interact with it? That's what Comcastic did in one section of their site.

The Corpse Bride Movie site would be one of the greatest film websites ever made. What with its exceptional visuals and equally enchanting interactivity, Tim Burton would have a personal interest in this amazing project.

Saab Animal Vision, a rare and unique site that was simple yet gripping, with an essence of the Blair Witch Project about it.

2005 – The Winner

With over 45% of the vote and no real surprise for us:

Leo Burnett – http://www.leoburnett.ca

2006 – The Sites

Jordan Brand – http://www.jumpman23.com

In-Synch Challenge - http://www.travelersinsynch.com/challenge_popup.html

Vodafone Journey - http://www.vodafonejourney.com/

Nike Air – http://www.nikeair.com

With the Flash 10th Anniversary coming in August we naturally only had the first half of 2006 to shortlist sites from so it must be noted that the overall winner of this poll only represents half a year of sites.

2006 – The Winner

In-Synch Challenge - http://www.travelersinsynch.com/challenge_popup.html

2006 – Winner's Reaction

Eric Frost- Group Head, Writer at Fallon Interactive responded as follows:

"We're extremely pleased with the praise and recognition that the In-Synch Challenge has received, especially considering the calibre of work it was up against in the FWA/Adobe challenge.

The success of the Challenge is due in no small part to our client, Travelers, who had the vision to do something unique in the category, and our development partners, B-Reel, who really went above in beyond in their execution."

The Final

As you'll have probably noticed, this 10th Anniversary poll project turned into a massive one. After nearly a month of polls, all averaging around 15000 votes per poll, we finally had the list of yearly winners who would could into the final vote to establish "The Most Influential Flash Site Of The Decade"

The Finalists

1996-97 - Gabocorp

1998 – NRG.BE

1999 – Mono*crafts

2000 – John Mark Sorum

2001 – 2Advanced Studios v3 "Expansions"

2002 – Neostream Interactive

2003 – Road Runner

2004 – Vodafone Future Vision

2005 – Leo Burnett

2006 – In-Synch Challenge

The final vote would last a full week, giving everyone the chance to cast their vote. Voting began on 30th August and finished 5th September.

As we kept tabs on the stats and votes each day it became clear fairly early on which would be the winning site. This helped the admin side of things a lot as we were able to pretty much prepare all the winning pages and files a day earlier than expected, bar a late surge of votes on another site of course.

5th September 2006 at just before 6 a.m. GMT, the final poll was closed.

The Winner and a website that truly deserves the title…

The Most Influential Flash Site Of The Decade:

From 2001, 2Advanced Studios v3 "Expansions"

With 10906 votes from a massive final polling of 54698 votes, 2Advanced Studios v3 "Expansions" lead the final right from the start.

Reaction from 2Advanced:

Eric Jordan's reaction to the news:

"To be considered as the most influential site in the past decade of the Flash history is truly an incredible honor. There are so many amazing Flash designers that preceded us and so many more that are just being discovered, we are simply happy that we were able to make a small contribution to a very important time for the Internet. Thank you to all those who voted, we hope to continue to inspire you."

Hats off to Eric Jordan for his vision that has since grown into one of the global leaders in new media design and development with 2Advanced Studios.

Reactions from the voters:

Manuel Muster from Germany:

"It´s a superb result. I am creative director at mmgraphics in germany and most influences and inspirations I got by watching 2A´s work. Thousands of web designers adapted those progressive impacts 2A have delivered, many of them even used it for inspiration on their own designs. Not to mention all those 2A-rips.

I for myself always have been pushed forward by 2A and I really love the jobs they did and still will do.

One word to 2A: Well done guys, you deserve the title "Most influential Flash Site of the Decade". I am deeply impressed!"

Nizam Mohammed from Dubai, UAE:

" For me, it was rather obvious. The second I saw the shortlisted sites, 2A's V3 site simply stood out. All I did was recalling the time when each of these sites really surprised me and none other than 2A's V3 seemed to open my mouth wider enough. Must say, they deserve it. To come up with something like that, for that time, is seriously, unbelievable. Great work 2A, keep it up!"

Chad Weaver from USA:

"The 2Advanced - V3 Expansions site single-handedly inspired me to move into web design and development. I’m sure the same can be said for an incredible number of people. This site continues to inspire today."

Words from Adobe:

"The Most Influential Flash Site Of The Decade poll was an excellent way to highlight the creativity and cutting-edge Flash work developed over the past ten years", said Kristan Jiles, senior product marketing manager for Flash at Adobe. "With almost 200,000 entrants, it proved to be a great source to help us expand the awareness of the 10-year Flash Anniversary."

An Epic

This has turned into an epic article for a project that became epic in itself. The whole poll project received 390,471 visitors and 197,859 votes. Quite remarkable and a real indication of how much Flash has influenced the internet generation.

So, that just about wraps up 10 Years of Flash. Maybe we will run this again in another ten… ;)

A final note and piece of inside information…

To quote one of the shortlisted site's representatives:

"If sitenameremoved.com wins then I will personally come over to London to bring you a full scale replica of the Batmobile made of the finest chocolate you've ever tasted, including two long legs on the back seat (obviously also made of chocolate, hehe)."

Man… and I love chocolate too!

About the author, Rob Ford
Founder & Principal, FWA

Robert Ford is FWA’s Principal. Born and bred in England with a background in finance, sales and project management, working for companies like Halifax PLC and American Express. He oversees the day to day running of the FWA project.

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