One of my favourite sites back in the mid-2000s was HomestarRunner.com, home to hundreds of funny (at least, funny to 13-year-old me) Flash cartoons created by Matt and Mike Chapman.

If you visit the Homestar Runner site today, you will see they're in the middle of moving a lot of their content to YouTube. In contrast, the original site (made in Flash) was a wonderful hand-crafted experience. A couple of times a year, the home page would be updated, with little secrets to find - bits of animation, music and dialogue that all added to the Brothers Chaps' universe of characters. Even the list of Strong Bad Email cartoons is displayed on the monitor of a Compy 386.

Whenever I'm beginning a creative project, my mind quickly goes to these kinds of small details that have transformed my experience. How can I approach the presentation of what I make, so that it takes people into the world that I'm creating? Maybe it's the lack of these sorts of custom experiences today that has put it so top of mind. As Homestar Runner moves to YouTube, I'm happy that thousands more people will get to enjoy them through the platform's massive reach, but I'm also sad they will become just another thumbnail among millions, as part of Google's bland, one-size-fits-all platform; some of that original charm will have been lost.

When the easy option is to use a big free platform (YouTube), or a big exclusive platform (Netflix), making your own space outside of those popular ecosystems is a radical act, and a difficult path. But it might be worth it, for what it can add to the experience.

Posted
AuthorThomas Riggs