Looking Back, Looking Forward 2013-12-31 13:16:05
As 2013 comes to a close, it seemed like a good time to look back at the past year and talk a little about what is happening in 2014.
We ended 2012 with the introduction of Playlists and we started 2013 with the launch of the Playlists Hub, where you can sort playlists by date or views and also filter to only show playlists by your friends. In the future, we're considering porting "favorites" for content into the Playlists system, so your Favorite Games would become a Favorite Games playlist, same for movies, art and music. Favorite Users would be rebranded as the people you follow and remain the same otherwise. This may or may not happen in 2014, it's a discussion item at the moment. The goal is simplification / less systems.
January also marked the launch of Swivel, our tool for best-ever SWF to video conversions. It was developed by Mike, who was working for NG but is now working for the Behemoth in case you were curious!
The ability to upload video meant setting up a video server to process multiple formats. BrenTheMan, who joined the staff in late 2012 as our new sys-admin, was up to the task and went above and beyond with that!
Support was added to play video on iOS and Android devices. We began uploading video alternatives for existing SWF movies, so that classics could be viewed on devices that don't support Flash. This was part of a larger project system overhaul that allows for multiple files for multiple platforms under a single project.
This update to the project system also expanded into games, with support for HTML5 and Unity games being added. We intend to add more direct Unity support in the future; right now it's a bit of a workaround using the same method you would use to share an HTML5 game.
We added a "Touch Friendly" checkbox to projects so you can specify that your game doesn't require a keyboard. This will ultimately allow us to provide mobile users with a list of games that work on their phone or tablet.
The Collabinator was developed to assist with talent match-making. I heard a lot of success stories early on and would love to hear more; if you started a partnership thanks to the Collabinator, post about it here!
The expanded feeds section was introduced, making feeds more accessible. We plan to remove that yellow star in the header (the old feed) because most people never knew what it was and it has been kinda redundant ever since the other feed updates.
There was a big back-end change to add support for unicode, which solved lots of quirks we had been having with unsupported text and gave people more freedom.
Thumbnails are now being auto-compressed when they are too big; we realized the front page had content thumbnails in the range of 100k because that's what people uploaded.
Massive behind-the-scenes changes to the publishing system solved lots of quirks that had lingered since the 2012 redesign launch. It is also now set up for pre-roll video ads, although we had a false start with that this year. We will be revisiting this in 2014 and hoping for the best; we want to be competitive with YouTube in terms of how much money you can make from your movies (and games).
Most recently, a rich text editor was introduced for blogs! You can now get a better idea of what your post will look like as you make it and you can add multiple pictures and videos, including content embeds from NG itself for content that has embedding enabled!
That roughly sums up what NG accomplished in 2013, not including the events, content and community going-ons.
There was plenty of bad news this year too!
The number of 1099s we send out triggered an audit; the IRS has been cracking down on companies that pay full-time workers with 1099s instead of making them official W-2 employees. I imagine this is partly to get accurate healthcare requirement assessments and also to collect tax money quicker, since employees on payroll have taxes removed from every paycheck while someone who receives a 1099 might wait all year if they don't file quarterly estimates.
The good news was that our 1099s are legit and the rest of the audit went fine and we didn't owe anything. I still had to spend a lot of time on preparation and money on the accountant, though.
If you recall, we were audited by the state of PA in 2007 when we obtained our sales tax ID for the launch of the store. So now I've been through both a state and federal audit.
Financially, this year completely sucked. We've done a lot to reduce costs and I plan to sell the office in 2014, which has been a difficult decision but it feels like overkill to maintain this big place when the staff has gotten smaller and smaller. A smaller office will free up money AND mental bandwidth.
BTW the store will be moving away from physical goods so please buy a Tankman, they take up a lot of storage space and we don't want to move them all to storage when we transition to a smaller office.
Another one of our problems this year has been out of our control. There is a peering dispute between Verizon and Cogent, the company we buy our bandwidth from. As a result, NG loads slowly for Verizon FIOS users. Some say Verizon is doing this because Netflix relies on Cogent and competes with Verizon's Redbox video service. Verizon says it's because Cogent is sending imbalanced traffic. I think if you are paying Verizon for a line of bandwidth to pull content, that bandwidth shouldn't be getting throttled.
I knew in mid-2012 that 2013 was gonna be a rough year, with ongoing expenses as well as looming hardware purchases such as a new storage system and load balancer (both now purchased). I'm happy to report that we survived and can look ahead.
So what can you expect in 2014?
Our web design will move towards being more adaptive for mobile. Media, blogs and forums will be much easier to enjoy on a phone or tablet.
PsychoGoldfish and BrenTheMan are collaborating on a BIG project but I'll save the details on that for later.
Features are coming to help with the development of your work, the ongoing promotion and the monetization of your work.
I see a lot of people scraping for followers on other networks and not getting a lot of value out of it. I hope to bring much more value to having fans on NG. I think some big players on the web are entering a period of decline while a lot of people are still very passionate about what we're doing here on Newgrounds. I hope that means something long-term.
Thank you everyone who has stood by Newgrounds over the years. There are a ton of places nowadays where you can share your work, so THANK YOU to everyone who continues to share their movies, games, art, music and literature here on NG. I know some sites are flush with cash and others have the benefit of being shiny and new, but I still believe that NG is filling a void that none of them could ever replace. We're the heart and soul of the web.
Here's hoping for a great 2014!