When I was younger, Flash-based websites were still a thing. You know, those websites where a preloader had you waiting until something flashy (pun intended) loaded. And I have to be honest, I'm somehow missing those times.
Sure, a lot of arguments against flash had a point. It was more or less inaccessible to assistive technologies and required a plugin to be installed. Most sites missed out on providing a HTML-only content alternative. And yes, the sites powered by Flash sometimes overstressed loading time because of the included assets - killer websites. Then with rise of mobiles came the final blow from Apple. Its decision to not support Flash on their iPhones killed it.
Yet, it was not the technology only that was cool, althought it's versatility was outstanding. It was what people created with. Websites, media players, stand-alone applications, screen-savers, entire e-commerce applications and games. Have a look at miniclip for example. Or remember the Chef Tako show, now living on Youtube? It combined a funny eight legged host ‒ octopus Chef Tako ‒ with the ability to shop the ingredients he used directly.
Sites like 2advanced or derbauer were constantly pushing the boundaries of design using bitmap and vector graphics, video, sound, animations and transitions. You can find earlier examples of both on archive.org. It was more about the fun and sensoric experience of a website but consuming the content. In my opinion, we have lost a lot of that experience and sacrificed it for rather bland text-driven content-laden pages.
Is this a bad thing? Has web-design stagnated?
I'm not saying that the web we have today is boring. I'm not saying that web-designers (is this still a viable job title, btw.?) have lost creativity. It's rather the opposite. What I'm sure of is though that the web has matured, both design- and content-wise. We have so many sources for news, entertainment, communication, collaboration, commerce etc.
Yet only a few deliver the rich experience that came with the power of Flash and human imagination combined.