F-ab is an online flash animation/video channel browser

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F-ab is a player for online videos and other flash animations where, instead of a URL, you literally ’tune into’ channels that are broadcast over the internet in the manner of a radio dial. It offers more than 1200 such channels as of this writing, with the possibility of adding your own (including YouTube channels) to the mix. F-ab also has a flash-based videoconferencing component.

This program, as you might have surmised from the text above, is somewhat hard to describe. I knew instantly that I wanted to post it on Freewaregenius if only because of being so interesting, although for all intents and purposes it is hard to see why a user might be inclined to be browsing channels on F-ab rather than on a video sharing site or any of the free video/TV broadcasting programs that have proliferated recently. There are a number of ways in which this program is unique; here are some notes on this program:

  • What it is: F-ab downloads and delivers specific content in the manner of a video sharing service. It is not a player for SWF or FLV player.
  • Interactivity: Has an interactive dimension beyond the experience provided by video sharing, as it not only broadcasts flash video (FLV) but flash animations (SWF’s) as well .
  • The content: there are 4 categories: advertisement, art, science, and sport. I wasn’t really able to see any single thread that connects the different channels on offer, except perhaps that the animations tend to be artsy and “hip”. A lot of the flash advertising animations seem to be there because they are interestingly made rather than as ads.
  • Changing the channel: you can do this by moving a dial. F-ab can support up to 10,000 channels (from 0000 to 9999 on the dial); it currently is up to the 1200 or so channels. It doesn’t really work very well when most channels do not have content. The best way to browse F-ab is to go to the public “search” section and browse the categories/channels there, which are displayed in a list.
  • Publishing a channel: you can publish your own channels on F-ab. Publishing a YouTube channel is extremely easy and literally involves a simple dragging and dropping of your channel’s URL/Favicon onto the F-ab interface.
  • Videoconferencing: F-ab supports flash-based videoconferencing where instead of a telephone number, an email is used for the person to be called. This is disabled by default and you have to go to the preferences to enable it. Note that I did not try the videoconferencing functionality for this review.
  • Options: browse by category, bookmark a favorite channel, scale proportions (or view fullscreen), jump back to previously viewed channels,
  • Source: click the “source” button to open the source web page where your flash movie originated, in case you are interested in finding out more about it.
  • Quirks: might not play some videos correctly because it does not support Javascript, search does not work very well because content is not yet categorized, and, the F-ab site states, for some reason the application will not work if installed in the “program files” folder in vista (but will work if installed in the root directory).

The verdict: this is a rather interesting program, but might be more of a novelty item than a tool you would come back to over and over. The content provided has a definite coolness factor, which complement the sleek design of the user interface. It would be interesting to see how this program develops and whether it is able to find a niche for itself.

Having said this, it might be worth downloading this simply to browse the animations, if you are into this sort of thing.

Version Tested: 2.4.0

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista. Mac OS 10.4.5 or higher. Java runtime environment required.

Go to the F-ab home page to download the latest version (approx 12 megs).