When you surf the Web, it’s a bit like listening to a CD. Each page you visit can be compared to a track, and your surf would be the collection of tracks that makes up the album. On most CDs, each track is separated from the next by a few seconds silence.  In the same way, there are very distinct boundaries between each page. You consult one, then load another, which you consult in turn.

Artists have experimented with various ways to provide a more cohesive experience with the LP/CD format. There are many songs from the LP era that are 23 minutes long. This is because the song would fill a whole side of the LP. There have been many concept albums, which were a collection of songs written and meant as a whole. More recently, DJs have released mix CDs, where instead of putting the usual blanks between songs, tracks would be spliced together to flow seamlessly from one to another. Some have gone even further and taken hundreds of audio snippets and assembled them together.

A DJ’s work can be defined in different ways: “to get people to dance” is one I like because it’s short and to the point. But the one I’m interested in here in this post is the following : to take a selection of samples and meld them into a sum greater than its parts.

Back to the Web: What if it were possible to take a selection of web pages and make a visual experience out of them? Blogs hand out links all the time. Some startups are developing slide shows of web pages.  Mashups are creating new ways to represent and assemble data culled from hitherto unrelated sources.  But that barely scratches the surface of what can currently be done with audio or video. So, what can be done? Here are a couple of ways of creating such experiences using available technology.


Using iframes you can render a page inside a frame. You multiply these frames, move them around, resize them, and put some controls around this all to create a collage or a slide show.  This is pretty low-tech and has its drawbacks: You can’t do much visually to these iframes, you have very little control on how the pages are rendered, and if the encapsuled page doesn’t want to be loaded in a iframe, you can’t stop it from busting out. You can try this with gmail, for example.


A much more promising path I find is using Adobe AIR. Contrarily to Flash, AIR comes with Webkit, an open source HTML rendering engine. It’s the same one used in Safari. Once you have rendered the page, you can manipulate it like any other image in Flash. Some inspiring examples can be found here: http://www.stockholmmug.org/airbrowserwar/ The one drawback I have found is that it seems that the HTML pages can’t include plugin content. So no Flash, for example, which means that a youtube page will be rendered with a blank square instead of a video.

If ever this is fixed, there would be some amazing user experiences to be created with the Web’s limitless content. Web DJ anyone?

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