Hypervideo and the “Temporal Web”

The current developmental trajectory of the web as the platform could actually be threatening what makes the web webby. While I’m a huge fan of Mozilla’s work toward parity of capability with native operating systems, I’m anxious that the current vision of the web being worked toward is incomplete and a bit short sighted. If web technology is used to create apps, is what comes out the other end still the web?

This is constantly on my mind these days, and I’m constantly on the lookout for deeper understanding of these issues and visions of the future that not only preserve the hypermedia experience that is the open web, but hints at deeper integration with deep seated cultural forms.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found anything that has changed my ideas of what the web -could- become. Mozilla’s Popcorn project is accomplishing this in spades!

Mozilla Popcorn “makes video work like the web.” Check out this intro video for a taste of what’s possible:

(If the video doesn’t play for you, it’s because I screwed something up. Try this link instead: http://videos.mozilla.org/serv/webmademovies/popcornsite.webm)

I’ve been experimenting with the toolkit for the past week, and I’m convinced that this doesn’t just completely redefine our conception of video, Popcorn could completely change the way we create and experience media of all forms. Popcorn represents the future of storytelling. …and possibly mastery over time itself!! (srsly.)

After playing with Popcorn, I’m starting to see an image of the future in which any data with a time stamp can be replayed, remixed, and recontextualized in webby fashion as part of larger narratives. (Annnddd….I spent way too much time on the last sentence and it still isn’t clear as I want it to be. Let’s try buzzwords.)

As Google Maps, mobile devices and the like have driven the emergence of the “geospatial web,” Popcorn is a major step toward the emergence of the “temporal web”. (A quick google search tells me I’m not the first to explore this idea! Validating.)

Let me try my hand at adding some definition to the idea: The “temporal web” is not just about cold digital time. Ultimately, it’s not about temporal quantification of data but the qualification of data within the context of narratives.

The “temporal web” is all about building hypermedia connectivity (links) between the past, present and future in a way that is human-centric. It gives us access to history in a way that enables us to continually re-experience it, revise it, and build on top of it.

The “temporal web” could turn us all into futurists by baking tools of strategic foresight into the core experience of the web.

The “temporal web” is an integral piece of figuring out the information overload/big data puzzle.

(Blah blah blah.. next big thing, blah blah.. you get the idea.)

Mozilla’s Popcorn project isn’t the only thing leading to the temporal web. Real-time web technology is a prerequisite. Activity Streams feed the temporal web.. with data feeds. (Hehe.)

I could go on all day talking about this, but you know what? I’d much rather make this thing. I have stories to tell, and nascent hypervideo technology to break. Back to that!

Note the wikipedia page for “hypervideo”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypervideo There’s no mention of anything interesting beyond academic exercises that are well over a decade old. Youtube is mentioned, but youtube is not the open web. This tells me the early days of hypervideo on the web have barely even begun! (Note: this wikipedia page will need some major revamping in a few months.)

I think we need to put Popcorn within the proper perspective of the larger web narrative. “Popcorn makes video work like the web” is great for communicating the project to the outside world, but how does Popcorn fit into Mozilla’s overall mission?

How about something like this: “Mozilla Popcorn prototypes an ecosystem that upgrades the web creative experience from the incumbent static hypertext document paradigm to a dynamic hypervideo paradigm.”

The ambitious scope of this framing adds clarity to how the web developer experience (#devexp) can be reconceived in a way that’s more in line with the interactive nature of today’s web as well as more accessible to the masses. This is a central strategic trajectory for Mozilla’s Webmaker program to accomplish its goal of closing the global hypermedia literacy gap.

At its core, the Mozilla Popcorn project is prototyping a hypervideo ecosystem via a javascript library: popcorn.js. As the ecosystem emerges and conventions are established, a natural step will be to begin the process of proposing hypervideo html5 and css3 markup. I think it will be valuable to begin this conversation as we progress toward the release of PopcornMaker 1.0 around November. We naturally wouldn’t want to make any real proposals too soon, but it’s an important variable to keep in mind as we begin to learn what kinds of hypervideo markup work best in the field.

As a relevant next step to addressing Mozilla’s internal communication and storytelling needs, it’s become clear to me that experimenting with Popcorn as a tool for internal engagement is absolutely badass. It’s in Mozilla’s dna to build their internal collaboration tools internally. The development of the web is happening so fast these days, why not develop next generation communication tools in parallel with the platforms upon which they depend.

My primary project for this next week: producing Popcorn hypervideos of Mozilla’s weekly Webmaker and All-hands community calls. I’ll report back what I’ve learned and my process sometime next week.

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Contemplating how this will effect the T in STEM compression, and also thinking Robert Levine will need to revise his book “A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist.” http://amzn.com/0465026427 Or the crowd will just remix it with Popcorn and call it a day…


I love everything about this post. Great thoughts here! One of my favorites: “The “temporal web” could turn us all into futurists by baking tools of strategic foresight into the core experience of the web.” That’s exactly what I thought when I saw Zoetrope! I hope the fine folks at Mozilla are listening and take Webmaker in this direction.


[…] As I’ve written before, Popcorn.js is a javascript library that brings a temporal dimension to the web. So far, the web has been a predominantly 2d medium. While WebGL brings the possibility for 3d graphics to the web, Popcornjs makes me think time itself could become the web’s natural third dimension. What does this mean in practical terms? […]

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