Hi - I used the original SoundSlides and am used to creating slideshows and then hosting them on my own server using the HTML5 format and then embedding them on my website.
Am I correct in assuming that this is no longer possible with the new software? In other words, I will have to pay for hosting forever (or use You Tube) if I continue to use SoundSlides - since it is now only available to be converted to a video format for embedding?
If this is the case - does this also mean that it is no longer possible to view a slideshow with the option to jump around and easily view various slides in the slideshow at will - with a menu of existing slides to work from?
Hi. These are important questions, thanks for prompting me to document my thinking on why I’ve designed the new version to be a hosted player, rather than a downloadable player for users to self-host.
First, the menu question.
That feature is going to make a comeback in some form. It’s on the todo list. I miss it too. I’ll see if I can get it higher on the list.
Half of that is correct.
It is not possible to self-host the new Soundslides player.
But, you don’t have to pay for hosting forever.
Subscriptions are for the ability to create new shows. If you ever want to stop making new shows, just cancel your subscription. Your hosting will keep going. Since 2006, there’s been a free hosting component to Soundslides in one form or another. There are millions of files on it. One user has more than 2,000 shows hosted. I’m fairly certain that some of those creators aren’t even among the living anymore.
As for “Why is there no self-hosting?” … there’s a long answer.
TLDR: It’s a balance between maintainability and portability.
I believe having one hosted player is critically important to the future of Soundslides. And it comes down to maintainability.
One of the reasons I resurrected Soundslides earlier this year was that I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that all those Flash slide shows had been given a death sentence. That might seem overly dramatic, but it’s how I think about it.
So I made a new player, and it renders all the Soundslides shows ever created. And in the next few months, every one of the shows hosted on the old hosting service will start using the new player. Automatically, with no effort required from the original creators, every one of those shows will no longer be in Flash.
But what about the old HTML5 templates? Those are still good, right? Well, yes and no. The auto-play policy changes in both Safari and Chrome were detrimental to the first HTML5 templates (2007-2012). The most recent HTML5 shell has some issues with the latest mobile Safari, and I suspect those issues will get worse over time as some WebKit selectors are slowly removed by those browsers.
The bottom line is that the web browser ecosystem is a living, breathing entity. And keeping it all updated takes energy and time, and you might be surprised how often something like the Soundslides player is updated in anticipation of new changes and betas, etc.
If you’ve been a Soundslides user for a long time, I probably don’t have to mention all of this tech churn to you, because you’ve been living with these changes. When Soundslides was first released, Chrome and iPhone didn’t exist and Internet Explorer had a 95% market share. The web keeps changing, and having one maintained player makes it possible to keep all these presentations available and performant.
Maintainability is also about making the best use of resources. Historically, more than half of all Soundslides help requests were related to troubleshooting self-hosting setups for users. It’s amazing how diverse server configurations are in the wild. The old mp3 loading code was almost 1000 lines long, just for all the conditionals of dealing with weird Apache configurations. I was still finding edge cases when I left the old company in 2012.
Now we have one hosted player, on one ripping fast worldwide content delivery network, and it just works. We can optimize for audio and image delivery on a network that has locations in 77 cities across 37 countries.
Portability is all about taking your work with you, and not being locked into a provider or application, be it Soundslides or Lightroom or YouTube or HostGator. If you make something, you should be able to save it, burn it to a disk and know that it is safe.
And most of all, you should be reasonably confident that the work can be viewable in the future.
So for future-proof portability, a standardized video file is about as safe as you can get for audio slide shows. That’s why I’ve put so much emphasis on improving the video exporting capabilities.
And right now, the majority of users choose to export their shows as video files. That was surprising to me because I love the big crisp images in the native browser-based player … but I’m probably going to lose that argument when 4K becomes more common.
Again, thanks for bringing this issue up. I’ve been thinking about this very issue a lot since I decided to resurrect the application. I’m super interested in everyone’s thoughts on this … and I’m open to changing my mind.
Joe - I know this is “your baby.” So, I was pleased to learn that you were back in the picture. I made quite a few presentations many years ago, then went another direction with video that never really panned out. With all the advancements in video, I kept trying. But after much money spent, for my application, your format was still the best solution. I kept looking for other similar applications to come along, with perhaps new whistles and bells, but nothing ever materialized - so I shelved my plans for years - until now.
Your cogent response was excellent, and explained a lot. Now I better understand why there are not more similar solutions available. Some of it I was aware of, and the rest I should have been - so I appreciate the time you took to educate me.
You must appreciate the concerns from a user’s point of view, and one of the reasons video is so agonizing. That is, not having your work totally under your control hosted somewhere else - with the potential of having the terms of delivery changed on a whim - or worse - having it disappear altogether someday. And then locked into another monthly obligation that is becoming the bane of “web life.”
It is clear to me that you are doing your best to try and find that necessary “sweet spot” that provides a win-win for your company and the user. And I understand that sweet spot is a constantly moving target. I have cloud backups of many important things, but I always have a local hard copy or two of my most important digital “possessions.” For me, not having that is a worry.
So as I understand it, export to video is the only way to accomplish this? I too appreciate (and need) the big clear images of the native player. And since my slide shows were long (sometimes hour long presentations), 4K video is/was prohibitive.
If you recall, I previously asked about the ability to place short video clips in the time line - thinking this hybrid form of a presentation might fill a need of others as well - while solving the problem of huge video files.
I was pleased to hear that I wouldn’t have to “pay forever” for viewers to have access to hosted files. But since my presentations are long, and they may be as few as 2-4 per year, I would feel guilty abusing your system by jumping in and out of a subscription. I like supporting dedicated developers - but have to do a better job managing my dozens of ongoing subscription based obligations.
It is clear I need to give your new system a try. Your commitment is commendable and hopefully it will be profitable. I will have a perfect opportunity to try it out next week, and then I will better understand how all this is put together - and probably be back with a few more questions and feedback.