It was 20 years ago today….

David Robinson, Senior Strategist

Insights

Friday, July 2, 2021

July the 2nd, 2001.

The dot-com bubble had burst the previous year and the writing was on the wall for the extravagant, over staffed and over funded mega-companies which promised the earth but delivered nothing. Working in “new media”, Tim and Jamie saw the opportunity to form an agency which would deliver what it promised - well designed, easy-to-use websites for an honest price. You could say they “would do exactly what it said on the tin” ©Ronseal.

And so TheTin was born. Working out of an office provided by good friends Three Blind Mice just off Tottenham Court Road, they set to work with their first major client; the prestigious Waterford Wedgwood PLC. 

But back then the internet didn’t look like it does today. It was something you generally accessed via a desktop computer, wired directly to a modem or through an office router. Less than 10% of the UK had broadband, and less than 10% of the world was online. And those computers had big clunky monitors, most of them maxing out at a pitiful 800x600 resolution.

The idea of carrying around the world’s information in your pocket was the stuff of science fiction. But it was the start of a period of vast change, foreshadowed by the launch of Wikipedia the very same year.

Over the next 5 years we would see the term Web 2.0 popularised, signalling a change from content being simply served, to user generated with services interlinked. And by the end of 2005 we would see the launch of MySpace, Linkedin, Facebook and YouTube. The web would become not just something you read, but something you made.

But this was yet to happen, and TheTin were busy delivering a number of sites for brands including Mean Fiddler, Phaidon and PanMacmillan (amongst others). In 2004 they officially moved into offices in Hatton Wall which would become home for the next 10 years.

Fast forward to 2006 and by now budgets had really begun to increase, with major brands commissioning sites combining vector graphics, sound, animation and video, being delivered via the Flash plugin which was now on over 97% of internet connected devices (soon to be 99%).

We stretched the capabilities to the limit delivering virtual tours for P&O Cruises’ upcoming flagship cruise ship Ventura, by combining 3D renders with green screen video - hosted by Marco Pierre White. Similar techniques were used to allow Ronnie Wood to deliver a personalised tour of his beloved gypsy caravan and showcase his personal artworks.

In 2007 however everything would change (even if we didn’t know it at the time) with the launch of the iPhone. Whilst the first iteration had limited online capabilities - we had to wait a year for the iPhone 3G - it was the first real step into the world we know today. 

Whilst Flash had added 3D capabilities to it’s bow, by 2008 the working draft for the HTML5 specification had been published, and Apple (who had blocked Flash from running in web pages) launched the AppStore.

The web was becoming ever more capable but we were starting to see the return of walled gardens, with Apple being the gatekeepers to mobile content. The first Android phone launched and Google released the Chrome browser for desktops. But all the hype was coming from Cupertino.

Putting us on the map

Closer to home, TheTin was included in Wired’s first ever Silicon Roundabout agency listing. Although we have no idea how, as we were the only agency not within a stones throw of the roundabout itself.

Seeing changes all around us, and being an inquisitive bunch we decided it time we shared our R&D findings with our clients and partners via a formal channel. We wanted a way to explore with purpose and add value to our growing relationships and so in 2008 Tinnovation was born. It’s still at the heart of our approach today, and we look forward to inviting you to more hybrid events later in the year.

2009 would see the launch of Facebook Connect, allowing sites to pull or push content from people's profiles into websites. We used it on sites to promote the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana. It was basic stuff, posting to your timeline or loading in your profile picture but it was a sign of the power and pull of social networks and the further integrations to come.

Indeed in 2010, as Facebook passed the 500 million user mark (Lady Gaga was friends with 10 million of those) more and more brands moved their marketing budgets to these growing social networks away from the traditional microsite. 

Not wanting to be left out of the spotlight, Apple launched the iPad and overtook Microsoft as the world's most valuable tech company. Most people would credit this to the visionary mind of Steve Jobs and indeed in many tech circles he was worshiped, but this was the year he wrote his piece “Thoughts on Flash” which many credit as the killer blow for the plugin.

Knocked back but not out, we continued to use it throughout 2011 and at the end of the year built iKeepFit, delivering customisable video based exercise programs (the year before Peloton was born).

The big tech news was the passing of Steve Jobs, but the whole world watched as the Arab Spring unfolded fuelled in no small part by Twitter. Social media really seemed like an unstoppable force and, one which at this time, seemed to have a positive impact on our lives.

The internet had changed a lot over the 10 years since TheTin was formed. There were now over 2 billion people online (just shy of 1/3rd of the global population) and there were more ways to serve content than ever before. 

WebGL and advances in CSS were enabling richer experiences to be delivered via HTML without plugins and the mobile internet was something that couldn’t be ignored. We were now designing for multiple devices of various shapes and sizes which brought with it it’s own unique challenges.

The next 10 years would see even greater changes and shifts, offering new ways for brands to reach and engage their audiences, and new challenges to overcome and we’ll be bringing you up to date with this next week.

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