Social network Cohost lets users turn posts into a game

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you create something on the Internet, people will find ways to break it creatively. That’s exactly what happened with Cohost, a new social media platform that allows posting css, Digging through the #interactables hashtag on Cohost reveals clickable, CSS-enabled experiments that go far beyond GIFs—there’s a warioware mug catcher gameOne interactive hubbo tributemagnetic fridge poemit’s all bananas cog machineand even a “Playable” Game Boy Colors (Which, at one point, “used to”gif plays pokemon“Competition). Yes, there is also Apocalypse,

The cohost team embraced the madness. It was the start of a creative avalanche that isn’t possible on other social media sites – a phenomenon the cohost community has dubbed a “CSS crime.”

While the major social media giants stick to uniformity and standardized posts, Cohost throws this corporate restriction out the window. My first encounter with this budding platform was like stumbling into a bygone era of computing – one where websites were uncontrollable reflections. personal expression And Happily weird, often weird vibes, Most importantly, the cohost has thriving farming Democene Filled with artists, designers, creative coders, and aspiring shitposters ready to push the envelope of computer art.

At first glance, cohost is a simple blogging website. Posts (koposts or, half-jokingly, “chosts”) have no character limit, and there is an option to create multiple pages for different topics or projects. You can create a collaboratively co-owned Page that can be used by multiple people, such as for crowdfunding or podcasts. It’s like meeting the odd offspring of Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. From a sensory design standpoint, the site’s plum and off-white accents and semi-retro logo create a sense of familiarity and nostalgia (there are drop-down menus!) that conjure up personal memories of old-timey diner flatware and Hugh Hefner’s cloak – A completely off-kilter palette that sets a curiously intimate mood. It is clear that this is not a regular “modern” forum. It is not an ecosystem or a product. cohost is a Web Page,

Cohost is a humble operation co-founded by Colin Baer and Jay Kaplan, both of whom have professional backgrounds in software engineering and tech startups. “Sometimes in 2019 I was complaining online about how Patreon was getting away with highway robberies, and how I wish I had the money to make a non-profit competitor to it, because economics is a Felt like a slam dunk,” recalls Bayer. He and Kaplan eventually quit their jobs and put together for a friend of Bayer’s, who offered a generous loan for his idea. And so, Cohost was born.

When Cohost first rolled out to a trusted group of friends in February 2022, posting with CSS was largely considered an exploit, and the team didn’t really address it. Full CSS offenses were not committed until the cohost began early-access registration in June. ,[Users] Very quickly we started testing the limits of what is allowed to work in Post Composer,” says designer Aidan Grealish, who joined Bayer and Kaplan in 2020 and created the site’s mascot, the Eggbug. “I think one of the first experiments was eggbug playgroundA little interactive — and I mean with all the love in the world, that’s a real compliment — could probably be done on the first day of web design class,” she says.

Despite taking a page from previous incarnations of personal web aesthetics, the Cohost team is wary of treading on familiar ground. For starters, the site doesn’t use algorithms or promote “trends,” and the team has pledged Never run ads or sell data and is Strongly Against Cryptocurrency and Fungible Tokens (NFT). Baer and Kaplan also back sharply against the trend of remembering Web 1.0—the rose-colored days of GeoCities, IRC, and DIY web hosting—as a perfect playground without a problem.

“Web 1.0 has gained a romantic image in retrospect, but at the time I was too broke to surf the web at home or pay for hosting, so my experiences with it were pretty pathetic,” Baer says. The 90s were very constrained when describing free hosting services. For example, their web hosting provider at the time did not allow users to write HTML for free and had a limited stock layout and editor. Better services were not possible for users who had limited Internet access or who could not pay for additional features. “None of this fakes the popular image of Web 1.0; It is clearly true that the aesthetics were a lot of Sick,” he says. “But many people associate the vibrancy of the early web with some decentralized, anti-capitalist zealot, which, I think, is wildly wrong; the digital divide was just as bad or worse, and the startups that survived that era were basically are in the center of the capital at this point.

Bayer further explained that these survivors include Amazon and Google, both startups of the ’90s, which have since evolved into privatized global infrastructure with a plethora of problems. Google’s unofficial motto used to be “don’t be evil“,” and “google” have become a common verb to use synonymous search engines. Amazon, which is a major part of global online retail as well as cloud computing, is faced with gross violation of labor laws (including fail) Accommodate pregnant and disabled workerswhich results in abortion) In-spite of this try to improve your image, The 90s were a blindingly optimistic time for technology – a Panglossian ideal still pushed by those that helped define the era, Web 1.0, for all its quirks and flaws and memorable flaws, was also the starting point where we are today with the corporatization of the Internet.

For Kaplan, the most interesting parts of Web 1.0 are the level of control and creativity that older services offered their users, something we don’t have on Facebook or Twitter today. Our modern notion of social media arguably began geocitiesWhich has free “homepage” and . … Offered idea of ​​”residence” and identity. It heralded the Renaissance era of design chaos, as people learned to quickly and easily put together GIFs, embedded audio files, tables, and frames. No two GeoCities pages looked alike, and it was intoxicating to discover these wildly unique webpages. Kaplan says, “We are in an era where everyone’s profiles on the major sites look exactly the same and the limited control that users had to begin with has been removed.” “It’s more like ‘this is my page on Twitter’ and more like ‘this is the part of Twitter where you only see my posts.'”

Ironically, it’s constraint and control that drives Cohost’s Democene – a defining part of Democene art is getting as creative as possible within certain technical limitations and the hardware at hand. blackle moriOne of the site’s more prolific CSS offenders (who uses the its/its pronoun), explained how it expanded mechanical interaction With the “resize” css property, which lets the user “grow” a visible element. Mori says its approach is basically “hacks on hacks” to work around Cohost’s HTML limitations and the inability to use JavaScript, the programming language used to create interactive webpages. (Some of the finer technical points of Mori’s composition are discussed in In this Hacker News forum post,

For Mori, playing at Cohost means making use of a wealth of HTML and CSS knowledge acquired over the years. “Web technology is uniquely cursed by how complex it is, and that comes from being so popular for so long,” Mori says. “Developers and designers have come and gone, each adding their own idea to the vast pile of abstraction that makes up the Web. And because the Web has to be backwards compatible for a fault, all those ideas are stuck around forever. live.”

What doesn’t last forever is internet art tied to a specific platform. (rest in peace, Bell.) The cohost is still a work in progress, but the team is mindful of “what-ifs”: that is, if the cohost isn’t working, what happens to the interactome? “It’s not strictly archival, but our goal is never to break a post,” Kaplan says. “When we make changes to how we render or may use post rule sets, we have systems in place to ensure that posts made prior to that change continue to render as usual.” Grealish is interested in viewing CSS crimes as site-specific art, which Environmental change doesn’t always survive in the physical world, “The site-specific digital artwork, the kind of work in dialogue with its existence and the tooling that made it possible in the first place, really excites me personally and I hope Cohost can become a place where Where that sort of intentionalization may be encouraged,” she says.

For now, the team is focused on making sure Cohost stays on track and remains in awe of the tremendous impact users make in CSS and SVG files. The trio look forward to sharing their favorite interactables, which include a Readable Recreation of the Stone Age Book from mistOne lights out gameand mori’s subtle one world story alternate universe fiction; Mori was concerned about being suspended or banned for changing the Cohost UI, but the admins loved it as well. Mario 64 title screen, (Bayer admits that Mori “partly died” from a bug he found while doing One World Story.) Grealish is especially fond of tools that help cohosts get even more creative with their posts. allow, such as become famous by artist and game designer Everest Pipkinthat enables Interactive Fiction Tool Twine in cohost. It works by using the “description” HTML tag which allows for interactivity without the need for JavaScript. Pipkin had used the description tag for a previous work (such as the poem in the front “soft corrupt”) “Even though I laid the soft copter by hand, I don’t want that on anyone else,” Pipkin said. “Hence, Ravel; a tool that stitches together description and summary tags for you.”

With Cohost still in invite-only early access mode, the future is still bright for enterprising CSS criminals. One of the team’s main goals is monetization. After all, it all started with Bayer’s dismay with Patreon – allowing its users to take full advantage of its unique post features. That means exploring better ways to embed Bandcamp pages and YouTube videos, but right now, nothing is set in stone, although Kaplan says audio and video are priorities. “I love bitsy games And would love to support ‘Bitsposting’ at some point,” Grealish says. “In general, I (selfishly) want to support as many flavors of interactive art as possible.” Monetization Guinea Pig is co-hosting right now. @staff pagewho receives the subscription amount from cohost plus signup (“which will give you access to [the team’s] Stupidest, worst idea”).

What the team cares about most is aligning with the needs and wants of the cohost community. “Especially as we exit startup mode and more and more of our paychecks are paid for by the creativity of our users, we cannot rule by decree or else we are just as bad as other people,” Bayer says. Huh. For now, the Cohost team just wants their child to exist and be sustainable as a company. “My goal has never been to beat any other platform,” Kaplan says. “I just want the cohost to keep paying my rent.” Grealish agrees and thinks about how awful it would be a decade from now for someone to say they learned CSS from messing around on cohost.

“That would kick ass,” Kaplan says. “Scratch everything else, the new goal is to get people in a decade talking about co-hosts the way people my age talk about Neopets and MySpace.”

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