Interview No. 171
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest has been with us four times previously. He was the first interview done with The Interviewer. Today he is here to shed light on where Newgrounds is compared to where it was. From the 25th Anniversary, to the death of Flash, and the ambitions he has for Newgrounds in the future. I am most pleased to welcome back the Founder and CEO of Newgrounds, @TomFulp
Q: 25 Years. Most sites tend to fall into obscurity after that period of time. Newgrounds though hasn't. Through the dot com bubble rise and burst. Through YouTube becoming a dominating force and failing. Newgrounds has stood the test of time. How does it feel that this site has lasted this long? Did you ever envision its longevity.
A: I think Newgrounds has lasted this long because it’s an idea; it comes from an appreciation for what the web gave us and a desire to live up to that potential. Newgrounds came from a place of celebrating an open platform for creativity, vs coming from a business plan.
Q: Flash is going to become discontinued by the end of the year. You and Mike have been working on things such as the Newgrounds Player and Ruffle. What more can you tell us about these projects?
A: Newgrounds Player was created as a way to run Flash content after Flash has been removed from browsers, while Ruffle is the ideal long-term plan to continue running Flash content in browsers, without Flash. Mike created Ruffle because he knew the Flash runtime couldn’t be depended on forever, even outside of the browser. Created with the Rust programming language, Ruffle is open source and has attracted a lot of smart people who are helping to move it forward. Currently Ruffle can run a lot of the animated content on NG as well as a good number of AS2 games, such as Alien Hominid.
Anyone can help with the development of Ruffle and you can directly sponsor Ruffle on GitHub. Newgrounds has been a diamond sponsor from the start and I’m a big cheerleader for Ruffle, while smarter people work on the actual development, solving difficult problems.
Q: What is your position on the Mobile presence of Newgrounds going forward? Will Newgrounds be able to run on Smart TVs and consoles that have mouse and keyboard support?
A: I would love to have Newgrounds on Smart TVs, at least as an app to watch animation. So many of these things come down to resources and needing money to fund the development of individual projects. The same goes with a mobile app; it would be very expensive to do it properly and there’s no guarantee it would succeed, no guarantee it would even be accepted by the app stores. I’m a big fan of the open web and I like to give people a reason to bypass the app stores.
Q: One thing you used to do that I miss were the Newgrounds Broadcasts. Where you would browse the portals for content and talk to the members of the site. Why did you stop doing these broadcasts? With the advent of Twitch will we see a possible return of them?
A: The broadcasts stopped when we shut down our streaming server, as part of a hardware downsizing to reduce rackspace expenses. We were working towards giving artists a streaming platform and the timing would have been great, but instead downsizing, planning for the death of Flash and adapting the site for mobile became the priority. NG wasn’t hosted in the cloud back then, we managed physical servers in downtown Philly until 2016.
Q: There were nominees for the 2013 Tank Awards, no voting or winners were chosen. I know the trophies were not cheap to make and that was one of the reasons it stopped. Will we see a return for these awards, at least in text form like the Daily Awards?
A: Like everything in the 2012-2013 era, there wasn’t money to make more trophies, at $500 apiece. We’ve had several false starts in the years since and still would like to get the trophies going again. We’re currently working on a trophy system overhaul that will let us award digital tank trophies, at which point we might assemble a panel of judges and retroactively award 2013-present, even if we don’t have physical trophies to hand out.
Q: We have spoken about the Writing Portal / Literature Portal on multiple occasions. You mentioned Medium.com as an example of what the Lit Portal would need to be. Will there ever be a Lit Portal on the site or are writers to be forever delegated to the Writing Forum and News Posts?
A: A Writing Portal is still on the wishlist. It’s hard to say when, given how many items we have on the list for the existing portals. I’d like to be a lot happier with the state of the other portals before we consider adding a new one.
Q: With Flash being discontinued, it will be easy for people to get their hands on Flash software for free. With Swivel being able to convert Flash to different formats and Ruffle coming out to emulate Flash, is there still a reason for new animators, developers, and programmers to pick up Flash for their creations?
A: It will be interesting to see if Ruffle inspires people to revisit Flash, as a sort of demo scene if nothing else. It’s hard to recommend Flash to newcomers because it’s essentially dead software that will no longer improve. It would be nice to see something new come along that matches the features of Flash, with an eye towards the future.
Q: We have had creators leave the site for bigger things. Newgrounds is a great platform for people to make a start, hone their skills, and then move on. You have stated in the past that you are happy Newgrounds was able to do that, but at the same time you wished they would stay. If they still refence Newgrounds as their building block why does it matter if they leave? Why would you want them to stay?
A: I think the expectation was that people would move from Newgrounds to something different from the web, for example film and television, or a game studio. When someone becomes popular on Newgrounds and then moves to YouTube, it feels like a lateral move. It shouldn’t be necessary, but YouTube offers the potential for more audience and money as you grow. Newgrounds would ideally be competitive with YouTube, which is the big challenge.
In the case of people simply growing up and becoming busy with life, I’d love to see them pop in once in a while to make a post or write a review. There’s always a new generation of artists coming up on the site but it’s great to see old faces in the crowd, even if they aren’t uploading stuff anymore.
Q: When we last spoke we talked about Randy Solem's passing and the uncertainty. You want Newgrounds to outlive you. Is there a plan in place when you're gone? Who will run the site without you here?
A: I have various ideas for what might happen but nothing is set in stone and much will change in the years ahead. There are people perfectly capable of keeping NG going without me around, though. Hopefully NG will be economically sustainable before I die, so it doesn’t have to be sold off or shut down.
Q: You have toyed around with the idea of a live action portal. You have stated it as an invite only basis at first. Why is this? What content would be allowed and not allowed with such a portal?
A: If Newgrounds had a live action portal, the goal would be to host independent short films. What we would want to avoid is vlogs, Let’s Plays and whatever someone decides to record on their phone any given day. It’s not just a matter of the vibe of the site; we literally couldn’t host the thousands of hours of content people would upload every day if the barrier to entry was too low.
Q: With the Supporter Upgrade, Newgrounds has attained many supporters. There are perks for supporters no doubt. Are there any new ideas for perks for supporters?
A: We float around different ideas but I prefer our limited development resources go towards features that benefit everyone. I want people to love NG so much that $3 a month feels like a no-brainer just to keep it going.
Q: Where do you see Internet as a form of entertainment and work within the next five years?
A: The introduction of mobile disrupted the traditional desktop user experience, however mobile interfaces aren’t evolving so quickly nowadays and COVID is bringing a lot of students back to laptops and desktops, when otherwise they may have never left their tablets. The next disruptive device will likely be Apple’s AR glasses and I could see needing to adjust our layout and interface for an AR experience in the future. If the glasses are “insanely great” as Steve Jobs would say, a lot of us may stop straining our necks to look down at phones. Maybe the future will be a fight between the desktop and glasses, vs desktop and phones / tablets?
With Newgrounds, we have years of work on the to-do list. The same way we had to shelve a lot of ideas in 2012 to focus on post-Flash and mobile, our plans will continue to evolve based on the changing environment. Our goal is to be more iterative with the site from now on, vs finding ourselves in a situation like the 2012 redesign, where we spent four years developing something that already felt outdated by the time it finally launched.
Q: What can we expect from Tom Fulp in the future?
A: Nightmare Cops! And of course I’ll be here on Newgrounds every day, doing Newgrounds things.
Tom has always been a brilliant man. Someone who started something a long time ago and with the demand only growing more and more wanted to share it with everybody. Find a way to give back as much as he can to the talent and creativity. Newgrounds is a place where you can gain some fame for sure, but mostly it is a place to grow and expand on your skillset. For me, it was a place where I was accepted and a place where I found out who I was. I imagine it is the same or at least similar to a lot of other people I've interviewed in the past. Tom is always doing something for Newgrounds in one way shape or form. I know Newgrounds loves Tom and everything he does.
The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions