webRIOT was the first interactive television game to synchronize online and television experiences precisely — within 1/10th of a second, to be exact. This stylish, award-winning game was played by over 1,000,000 MTV viewers when it launched in 1999. Hosted by Ahmet Zappa, webRIOT allowed MTV viewers to compete against four in-studio contestants in a battle of music trivia knowledge.

The proprietary “sync to broadcast” technology that made webRIOT possible was developed by my company Spiderdance, based on an original idea conceived by me and Mike Gresh, CTO of Spiderdance. Having designed the first multiplayer casual game, NetWits, for Microsoft, Mike and I were interested in further exploring the possibility of larger-scale social games made possible by the size of television audiences.

The Spiderdance technology was a natural outgrowth of our experiences with NetWits for MSN, as well as my work on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune Online for Sony. Our concept was to build a reliable online technology that would allow responsive, real-time interaction with both television content and with other players.

Because of the need for tight security measures, the webRIOT client application was built in C++. Later versions were ported to Shockwave, once advancements in that platform´s messaging protocols made secure communications with the Spiderdance servers possible.

At launch, webRIOT introduced a brand new concept to the fledgling interactive television industry — two-screen interactivity. Since that time, numerous other companies have turned to this method of iTV distribution because of its vastly larger audience reach than single-screen technologies here in the United States.

webRIOT has been honored with multiple awards, including the IBC’s Nombre d’Or Silver Rembrandt Award for Best Convergent Format, the Digital Coast 2000 Award for Excellence in Digital Entertainment, the iMIX v2.0 Award Best in Show and the INVISION 2000 Gold Award for Web Entertainment Games.