Webby Awards winners 2017

Our friends at The Webby Awards have announced this year's recipients! The Webby Awards, now in its 21st year, celebrates well-known big sites and also fantastic indie operations I've never heard of before but can't wait to explore. Congratulations to our friends Adam Savage, Internet Archive, and all of the other winners and nominees! Webby Awards 2017 winners Read the rest

Google asked a website for its data, then just took it anyway

CelebrityNetWorth.com was a popular, data-driven website whose 12 staffers led serious efforts to research public figures and give a credible estimate of their fortunes. Google liked the look of this, so it made site founder Brian Warner a proposition: let Google include the Big Number as a featured "snippet" atop relevant search results, in return for the snippet linking to the website.

Warner, though, knew that the link offer was worthless and said no. Mysteriously, Google started "answering" questions about celebrities' net worth anyway, only occasionally disclosing the source; he seeded his database with a few fake celebrities to prove Google was using CelebrityNetWorth.com's data. The result was just as he predicted when he said no: his site's lost most of its traffic, even as Google depends on it to provide accurate answers.

Google’s push into direct answers has wide-reaching consequences for more than just small business owners who depend on search traffic. The email Google sent Warner in 2014 gives some insight into how Google selects reputable sources. Google wouldn’t answer questions about this, but based on the emails, the vetting was pretty thin; Google seemed more interested in whether the data was machine-readable than whether it was accurate. And the bar for featured snippets — the answers culled algorithmically from the web — is even lower, since it appears that any site good enough to rank in search results is good enough to serve as the source for Google’s canonical answers. That’s how you get erroneous answers that claim Barack Obama is organizing a coup, or that the Earth is flat, or that women are evil...

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Site turns any image into an animated waving flag

Flag Waver accepts uploaded images or URLs and turns them into an on-screen waving flag. There are advanced options for wind and hoisting! Sadly, you cannot export or save animations. Read the rest

Roll your own ASMR soundscape

ASMRion generates relaxing "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response" soundscapes for you. There are ten sigils with sliders underneath them, each representing a particular sonic ingredient—"leaves rustling in the wind," "barbershop haircut," "whispering psychopath," etc—that allegedly trigger the vaunted ASMR response. Previously. Read the rest

Draw a maze and watch different algorithms beat it

Draw a maze at PathFinding.js, pick a an algorithm, and watch it explore and find its way to the target square. Read the rest

Comic about the creation of Twitter

In a brand new series for the Webby Awards where I'm editor-at-large, I commissioned the talented comic artist Andy Warner to illustrate the wild history of the Web, from inspiring eureka moments to crackpot ideas that changed the world to fantastic failures.

The first comic in the series is: "Twitter's First Chirps"!

And for more of Andy's work, I highly recommend his absolutely wonderful book just out this week, Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, the illustrated stories behind life’s most common and underappreciated items. Read the rest

The most popular website colors

This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web's top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with.

Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it's interesting how far the blue "cluster" is from the default blue hue, whereas the red cluster merely modifies the saturation and lightness. This might be influenced by various "studies" of the most effective link color.

The odd thing is the popularity of #d2b48c (triggered by the "Tan" HTML color name), which appears to be the single most popular nonblack color after #0000FF (HTML Blue) and #FF0000 (HTML Red). Google uses it somewhere (though I don't see it) Is everyone just following the leader? (UPDATE: see below)

UPDATE: Hebert explains the Tan thing in the comments.

UPDATE: 10/22/2016. Hebert's updated his method to exclude false positives (including the mysterious Tan) Read the rest

Create a fractal castle made of miniature copies of itself

Castles is a fascinating web toy by Nico Disseldorp. Left-click to add a castle to the outside of your castle—and watch as every part of the castle, including the added part, changes to reflect the form of the new whole. Right click to spin it around so you don't go mad. He's made other mind-melting recursion toys too. Read the rest

Watch this helpful "Kids Guide to the Internet"

....from 1997.

On your mark, get set

Now we're riding on the Internet

Cyberspace, sets us free

Hello virtual reality

Interactive appetite

Searching for a Web site...

(Thanks, UPSO!)

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The return to a simpler, uglier web

Pascal Deville loves "beautiful atrocities"—websites that could be described as intentionally brutalist were they not mostly just ugh. Fast Company interviewed him on his love of rough design, strangely compelling as it is in the age of bloated, broken, but very pretty websites.

"I wouldn't call it a protest but a shout-out for more humanity in today's web design," Deville says. He views his site as a bastion for a segment of Internet culture of people who built scrappy websites themselves as opposed to using services with pre-canned templates like Squarespace. "Terms like UX and user friendly don't have a lot of soul or guts and treat everything like a product. They also killed a lot of the web culture, which seems to find a voice on Brutalistwebsites.com."

More from The Washington Post.

Intriguingly, Deville has found in his Q&As with coders and designers that few set out to mimic this newly popular aesthetic; instead, they all arrived at the same point out of a drive to create something original.

“[Brutalism] is interesting to me … because it doesn’t necessarily have a defined set of aesthetic signifiers,” said Jake Tobin, the designer behind trulybald.com. “What defines those signifiers is decided by the platform it’s built on.”

Previously. Read the rest

Rube Goldberg machine built entirely from HTML form elements

Sebastian Ly Serena's website consists solely of a bizarre HTML contraption that animates form elements until all of them have expanded and the author's email address is exposed. It's built entirely from standard web forms and javascript, ugly as sin, and completely wonderful. [via Hacker News, whose commenters are unimpressed because the underlying code doesn't really model a chain reaction.] Read the rest

PowerPuff avatar creator

There is, finally, a Read the rest

Pixel art, but with triangles instead of squares

Triangulart is "a silly graphic editor build in JavaScript to create isometric illustrations" Read the rest

Microsoft's 1994 home page

Microsoft has recreated its first home page, from 1994. From Microsoft's The Fire Hose blog:

In 1994, among the reasons Microsoft started a website was to put its growing Knowledge Base online. At the time, the company managed support forums for customers on CompuServe, one of the earliest major Internet dial-up service providers.

“We had started to build up a community there; people would answer questions for each other,” recalls Mark Ingalls, a Microsoft engineer in 1994 who would become Microsoft.com’s first administrator. He was also the only website employee at that time, other than his boss. But the staff doubled early on, when Steve Heaney was hired to offer vacation relief, Ingalls says.

In terms of “Web design,” the notion, much less the phrase, didn’t really exist.

“There wasn’t much for authoring tools,” Ingalls says. “There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew.” Information that was submitted for the new Microsoft.com website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.

“Steve Heaney and I put together PERL scripts that handled a lot of these daily publishing duties for us,” he says. “For a while, we ran the site like a newspaper, where we published content twice a day. And if you missed the cutoff for the publishing deadline, you didn’t get it published until the next running of the presses, or however you want to term it.”

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Winners of the Webby Awards 2014!

Our friends at The Webby Awards have announced this year's recipients! As they do every year, The Webby Awards 2014 celebrates well-known big sites and also fantastic indie operations I've never heard of before but look terrific. And special congratulations to BB pal Lawrence Lessig who received a "Webby Lifetime Achievement" award! In my favorite category, "Weird," the Webby went to The .GIFYs. Read the rest

You Are Not So Smart podcast 013: Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds

YANSS: RSS | iTunes |

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Live-stream two days of public lectures on physics and cosmology

The Nobel Conference is an annual event at Minnesota's Gustavus Adolphus College that brings in scientists from around the world to talk to the general public about a given theme. This year, the conference is focusing on physics and cosmology, from tiny particles to massive features of the Universe outside our own solar system. The conference runs all day tomorrow and Wednesday and you can watch the whole thing on a live stream. Lawrence Krauss will be speaking Wednesday at 1:00 central. Read the rest

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