Did Adobe Zoetrope Get Stuck In Time?
Around a year ago the Internet news was buzzing with the word that Adobe Labs was building a time machine, not the blue box kind of time machine but an Internet time machine. Deep inside the stronghold of Adobe Labs the idea of Zoetrope would be to visualise how websites, says news headlines for example, develop over time. A temporal lens (yes, you read it right) would allow you to hover over a particular area of a web page and use a slider to rewind back through time.
A web crawler would collect information, store it in a back-end database, and provide an interface into the stored data to perform analysis, such as filtering over time, filtering by keyword, or say to find distinctly unique content over a period of time. To help visualise the concept – you could think of it as change tracking in something like Microsoft Word.
The project would most likely be in the vein of the way back machine with regular snapshots taken of popular web sources. However, visualising this isn’t easy to do, with the billions of web pages available and a large majority of them dynamically changing – the ephemeral nature of the internet means a snapshot is unlikely to capture the dynamically changing parts of a web page (take for example a breaking news ticker), or a real-time data feed. Also, sites that use dynamically changing themes or that like moving content around would also struggle.
Since the original buzz things seemed to have petered out down for Zoetrope, there is no mention of it in Adobe Labs for example. So what does the future hold for Zoetrope? Perhaps one day we might be able to use a temporal lens to find out.
In the meantime it’s probably more likely we’ll see the team at Microsoft Research release their DiffIE project (see Changing how people view changes on the web) – a plug-in for Internet Explorer which can cache web pages and visually highlight how they change over time – sound familiar?