I joined Comcast four years ago, fresh out of graduate school with a Masters in Computer Engineering and a passion for the Flash programming language. Back then, Comcast was one of the rare companies that had invested heavily in Flash and getting the opportunity to develop applications in Flash that would be seen by a huge number of users was an exciting opportunity.
One of the first apps I got involved in and was my main project till about a year ago was the Fan. Originally conceived by my then boss and later friend and mentor Jeremy Landis, the Fan was a unique application. Comcast was probably one of the first companies who invested in Flash video back when it had just about come out.
- When I joined, the Fan version 1, was written with all the goodness of Flash 6: code in frames, gotoAndPlays, etc etc. That was not too easy to work with.
- The app was ported to the goodness of ActionScript2 soon after the release of Flash Player 7.
- Version 3 of the application added some amazing redesign by our new design lead, Alfredo Silva and some amazing interaction models by Gabo (of Gabocorp fame).
- The 3.5 version of the player introduced the ability to switch to a more conventional square view. There was a sentiment that adding a more conventional interface would lower the barrier to users actually interacting with the application more.
- The square view was extended even further in Fan 4 which was also written from ground up in Flex 2. Porting the circular view to Flex 2 was an interesting challenge and I think we did an amazing job with Flex custom components.
- The circular view was discontinued early this year as was the monolithic Fan application with the Comcast.net portal moving to a more conventional single-video-on-page experience.
Its kind of ironic that today the original team responsible for the Fan was awarded the patent by the United States Patent office on the design of the application. My first patent! How f-ing awesome is that !!!
The Fan was always unique if anything, and there was always the debate whether a circular interface was indeed the best to watch rectangular video. But the people loved it for sure, so much so that it even won the Flash Forward People’s Choice award in Sept 2006, and yes, that was for the circular interface. I remember a lot of stories from friends who had parents/relatives who loved the circular interface, and it was perplexing to the usability folk, after all it was clearly breaking all rules of application design. But that was where the magic was. It was different, iconic and had a long history with the Comcast customers who used it to catch up on daily news, events, gossip, etc. Heck, it was cool! Cool enough for even Philebrity to run a post titled The Only Thing Comcast Ever Contributed To The Internet: â€œThe Fanâ€ (Philebrity posts are not usually the most Comcast friendly).
But anyway, this is a moment to celebrate. I have one more fond memory of the Fan now, and believe me, this one is hard to forget :). Special thanks to all who went towards making the Fan a successful product, the editors, content video team, the design,dev and QA teams, etc. This was a fun ride.