Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Air America 3.0? Not for the impatient

Okay, so as you all know by now I have awoken from my long slumber. And after withdrawing almost completely from everything LTR, I decided to do a little catch-up. One of the first stops was the website of Air America Radio.

The first thing I noticed was, apparently with the new ownership and the passing of their fourth birthday a couple days ago, yet another website redesign. This following their most recent remodeling last May. And yes, the old logo is back, for those of you who like the whole throwback look.

So now, Air America Premium is now called "OnDemand." Doesn't seem like the whole concept has changed, except they now offer condensed recaps of the shows (a good idea). They also offer a la carte choices, so if you like Lionel (c'mon, admit it) but don't like Randi Rhodes, you can subscribe that way. Hey, they even claim that they'll have the stuff up immediately, which I guess is motivation for the smart folk who have wised up to the fact that they can get Rhodes, Rachel Maddow and Thom Hartmann shows via individual radio station websites (thanks, Clear Channel!). And yes, you still gotta pay, though they offer a two week trial to get hooked on it.

So, about the redesign. Well, compared to the clean look of the last incarnation, this one takes some getting used to. Actually, it's rather confusing. But they added quite a bit of stuff. Widgets. Lots and lots of widgets. Widgets with news headlines, blog posts from guest bloggers, show hosts and website guy Sam Seder himself, and whatever else can possibly be turned into a widget. Audio clips that they promise will be up-to-date (in case you're tired of that Mark Crispin Miller interview from three years ago that was prominently featured for what seemed like forever).

Likely, this is all part of the grand plan to give Air America a stronger web presence. As they should. Heck, Huffington Post came out of nowhere just a few years ago and is now more popular than the stalwart Drudge Report. Air America has been dragging ass on the online front from the get-go, not even coming close to realizing its potential. They have long missed the opportunity to become a go-to spot for the left, as HuffPo, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, Buzzflash and others have become.

But if they are going to even come close to getting to that point, they better open up the tubes. This fancy-schmancy new site is a P-I-G pig! The slowest thing on the internet since 12 year-old kids started slapping up their own gaudy graphics-clogged Angelfire pages back in 2000 or so. So slow that I hit the link, got up, smoked a cigarette, walked the dog, washed the dishes, came back and it was still trying to load. I normally use Firefox, so I thought that perhaps it wasn't optimized for the browser yet (a big no-no). I tried it on the new Windows version of Apple's Safari 3.1 browser (which, to be warned, Apple may try to foist on you next time you update iTunes). A little faster, but didn't even load the first time. Next, I tried the dreaded Internet Exploder. Loaded up much faster, but it looks like complete hell. A box popped up eventually on Firefox claiming that the site was asking to load funny scripts. What the hell is going on here?

The newest incarnation of airamerica.com looks like an exercise in all the newest web programming fads, including enough Web 2.0 stuff to make your head spin, and other gimmicks, bells and whistles that most everyday browsers can barely understand.

Perhaps I'm the only one who's noticed this. After all, my system is getting a bit long in the tooth. Or maybe not, judging from the complaints on Air America's site, which bitch about incompatibility with Firefox, problems with accessing audio files and archived shows, streaming issues, and all the meat-and-potatoes stuff that people currently go to Air America's site for.

Perhaps the unacceptable sluggishness of the new Air America site is merely due to growing pains. Maybe they just have to open the pipes a bit. Maybe the webmaster is holding out for more money. I'll give them some time to get their act together and make it all functional once again. Hey, I may even get used to it and learn to like it. But if this is a sign of things to come, I'd better stock up on cigarettes.


Brady Bonk said...

Believe me, you're not the only one. This website is such a browser hog that in IE it freezes you out from even pressing "home." I've never seen a website behave quite like that. WAY too much reliance on browser-side dynamic code. WAY too much crap. These guys just can't find a happy medium. It's called "useability," fellas. And it's rather important.

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