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In a collaborative video Hank and Ryder introduce you (or re-familiarize you) with the majesty of Homestar Runner. In a lot of ways it was the very first broadly successful online video project. Pretty much everything we do here on YouTube is in some way based on trails The Brothers Chaps blazed. Our history, people! It is here!

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Hank: Hello and welcome to a special episode of A Brief History, a show created by Ryder Burgin that usually runs on but just for today it runs here on Vlogbrothers, part of the collaboration between Hank and Ryder. Today's episode: Homestar Runner.

Ready? Set? Go!

Ryder: Atlanta, Georgia, 1996. University of Georgia students Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel had a day off from their summer jobs and decided to go to a bookstore where they discovered just how bad children's books at that time were, and decided to just go home and write their own.

Titled The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest, this book was a quasi-parody of children's books, featuring an arm-less athlete named Homestar Runner, a wrestle-man named Strong Bad and a small mischievous animal called The Cheat. (0:26)

Hank: Over the next few years, Mike and his brother Matt began working in graphic design, while also teaching themselves Flash animation, which allowed for animated content to beam over the Internet back when speeds were embarrassingly slow.

In late 1999, the brothers Chaps launched a website at where they would upload their Flash animation, with Mike tackling most of the site's graphic design and Matt voicing the majority of the characters.

Ryder: At the time of its launch, the site featured a couple of interactive menu screens, a few cartoons, and a handful of games. These early cartoons had a very simple, children's-book style, similar to that of the original Homestar books. These cartoons also introduced a new set of characters who would soon become regulars to the Homestar on the show, such as Marzipan, voiced by Melissa Palmer, Strong Matt, Strong Sad, Bubs, Coach Z, the King of Town, and the Poopsmith. Just... don't ask.

The brothers continued to sporadically update the site with new cartoons and games whenever they could find the time to make them, but after a couple of years and a sleek new re-design the Homestar runner site really began to take off, with the launch of the site's first re-occurring series, Strong Bad Email.

Hank: The concept of the show was beautiful. Take the biggest jerk of the site, give him fan mail, and watch the fireworks. With its consistent release schedule, unique sense of humor, and use of fan interaction, the SB-mails were almost an instant success, spawning spin-off shows, including Teen Girls Squad and of course everyone's favorite one-armed wing-a-ling dragon turned meme, Trogdor the burninator.

Ryder: The Strong Bad emails massively boosted's traffic. How much? No one knows. The brothers Chaps as they became known, never installed an analytics package onto the site, so viewership was then and remains now a complete mystery.

Nonetheless, success was clear. Thousands of emails poured into Strong Bad's account every day, their web-hosting bills shot through the roof, and enough merch flew off the shelf for the Chaps to go full-time.

Hank: The Homestar universe continued to grow with new shows and Hollywood specials and games and collaborations; podcasting service, DVDs, toys, posters, and a 20-track CD called Strong Bad Sings and other type hits. References to the show popped up in Seventeen magazine, Guitar Hero and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ryder: With Homestar at the height of its popularity, video game developers telltale games approached the Chaps about working on a point-and-click adventure game based on the Homestar runner universe, and on April 10th 2000-and-8, Strong Bad's "Cool Game for Attractive People" was announced for both Wii and PC.

Hank: So by 2009, it seemed that the brothers Chaps were on a roll, having at that point released over two hundred SB-mails and created a massive online entity from the ground up. It seemed as if they could only continue to grow bigger and better but then suddenly... nothing.

Starting in late 2009, Homestar Runner went virtually silent. No new tunes, no new SB-mails, nothing. According to the Chaps, the silence was unexplained because they didn't know how to explain it.

Ryder: After working on the stuff for ten years straight, the two mutually decided to take a short break from Homestar. During this time, Matt moved to LA where he began to work as a writer and director for shows like Yo Gabba Gabba and Gravity Falls.

They never really knew how long this break would last, but they also never anticipated that it would stretch on for four years, and for fans, this was less of a well-deserved break and more of an unexpected and unexplained indefinite hiatus.

Hank: But then, out of nowhere, on April 1st, 2014, the Chaps released their first full-length Homestar cartoon in four years. Fans were absolutely elated, and since the release of that 'toon, the Chaps have confirmed their plans to bring back Homestar Runner. Everything seems to be set in motion for Homestar's triumphant return.

The fan community is still very much alive, Matt's moved back home from LA, and their April Fool's 'toon, in addition to a handful of other new toons, showed that they hadn't even gotten the slightest bit rusty.

Ryder: But a lot has changed on the Internet in these four years. Flash websites are a thing of the past. Everyone goes to YouTube now for their online video needs, and a lot of what made Homestar special was it's interactivity which can't be done on YouTube.

So how do you bring Homestar into the modern age? Well, we'll just have to wait and see what wonders the Chaps cook up for us.

Hank: Homestar Runner pioneered the online video industry, and without it, I doubt that many of us would even be here today. It predates YouTube by five years, yet watching it feels as fresh and entertaining as every. And now, after four years of silence, Strong Bad is finally booting up the copy 386 again. Rejoice, everyone! Homestar runner is back.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.

Thanks to Ryder Burgin for helping me with this special brief history. Check out our other collab video, a Brief History of Harry Potter, on his channel,