A Week Without DaveNet?
Friday, January 20, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Well folks -- I bet you never thought you'd make it thru a *whole* week without DaveNet. Not this week. Here we are, Dave and DaveNet, to brighten your mailboxes in advance of what promises to be a totally great weekend here in California and hopefully where ever you are. Aretha's on the box wailing and humming. Life is just great.
Yeah! I've been in crunch mode on the AutoWeb product. It's almost done. How do I know? Last night I was driving to my shiatsu thinking about what comes next in the twisty process of shipping this software product. Instead of a list of cool tweaks and cleanups, what popped up repeatedly was "ship it". And then the inevitable post-partum feeling (not exactly depression) just a bit of a let-down; now I have to share this thing with *anyone* who wants it. Will they love it too? Perhaps there's a little stage-fright in there too. Yes.
As I've been crunching, I've been returning phone calls and email to vendors of web browsers. After the last piece (A Huge Chunk of Blue Sky, 1/13/95) it's not surprising that they're calling. That's what I wanted.
I've had a chance to test out some of my ideas and conclusions. There's an amazing consensus among people in this business.
In an earlier piece, I mentioned briefly that I was seeing Next people and Next boxes in very important places out there on the Worldwide Web. I was surprised, because I thought Next was a dead platform. My experience in the last few weeks has only built my respect for the role this platform plays on the net.
For example, the people at CERN in Switzerland who invented the web are all Next people. You keep running into them. I found out that the service provider that I dial in thru (sirius.com, in San Francisco) runs on Next machines. They show up *everywhere*.
Jeannine Barnard (firstname.lastname@example.org), former publisher of NextWorld, says that email on Next is from heaven.
I also noticed in Infoworld and PC WEEK that Canon is coming out with a very nice looking Next box. Culturally, and support-wise, this is probably a very good choice for a system manager's desktop or for a net server. Maybe even for the editor-in-chief?
Next should run some ads. Take credit. Develop this market that they are very strong in. Get a quote from the CERN folks.
It's time to bury the hatchet, let bygones be gone and welcome Steve back into the software industry. He's got a bit of heat. I hope he does something good with it.
As a general rule, the machines you're talking to are Suns, Nexts and Silicon Graphics ("SGIs"). They run Unix.
If you're a Mac user developing content for the web, you must live with the strangeness of Unix machines, their limitations and complexities.
There really is a convergence here, because more and more Macintosh people are having to learn how Unix works thru the lens offered by Fetch, Anarchie and Telnet. You have to deal with things like "~/disk/sd4h/dwiner/public_html/". It can be very, very intimidating. [But real cozy to a guy like me who grew up on Unix in the late 70s.]
On the other hand, people who aren't developing content, the users, get to see it all thru the Mosaic interface -- which is very pretty. That is what a platform is all about. Nice for the users. Powerful for the developers. Cool.
I was very surprised to find out that a vast majority of the content that appears on the web is authored using Macintoshes.
People who write prefer Macs. I forgot that. They still do.
It was this insight, and my experience with the San Francisco Free Press strike paper (Dave's Automated Webster, 11/7/94) that led me to develop content management software, to see that as the biggest opportunity in the tools and products we have at UserLand.
I've been talking about this with lots of people. Subjectively, everyone agrees that 80 percent of the content on the web originates from a Mac or a network of Macs.
Dave Carlick, email@example.com, the ad agency guy, had me fooled into believing that he had switched to Windows. He actually runs his operation on a network of 20 Macintoshes. His server is an SGI, but all the words and pictures on his home page are authored on Macintoshes.
This is a very common picture.
Software can smoothe out the connection. Eliminate the differences between Macs and Unix. We already know how to streamline workflow for organizations producing printed publications. Quark XPress taught us how to do that. It's one of two apps that drive the Mac business (the other is Adobe PhotoShop).
I've helped dozens of people debug newsroom scripts that wander around a Mac local area net, picking up copy from editorial people and flowing it thru XPress. At deadline, a script runs. Reads all the words, does a decent job of laying out the paper. Passes it off to design people who get it ready for the presses. We can do the same thing with the web, but we can do much better than decent. Quark is much more expressive than HTML.
Instead of flowing text to a printer, we flow it to the web. Same process, different result. Writers write. They're happy with their Macs. The scripts hide all the arcane-ness of Unix. Want to put a new article on the web? Write it with a text editor. Drop it in a folder. A few minutes later it's linked to your home page. It really can be that simple.
I love it!
The next step is to allow posting of web pages thru email.
Here's where the fun begins.
Last Friday Microsoft announced that it had licensed Spyglass's web browser to be included with Windows 95. This is a big deal (see the next section).
I'm sure Microsoft wants to own the client side of the web industry. But right now, it's probably an even split between Macintosh and Windows 90.
Apple doesn't have to cede this market to Microsoft. Current thinking at Apple is that Mac makes a great net server. [MacHTTP is gaining a great reputation.]
But Macintosh is the original client. This is a market where Apple doesn't have to struggle to attain 20 percent market share. Quantify it. I bet Apple already has 50-plus percent. And it's a very high growth market.
Product-wise -- I'd love to see a Mac clone pre-configured for net authoring and browsing. With email and basic utilities included. ISDN hardware built-in. A contract with a service provider. An 800-number in ROM. Plug it in the power cord, plug in an Ethernet connection, plug in an ISDN connection and boot the machine. You're on the net. Choose a command from the Finder's menu bar to upload your home page. Software-wise we could ship this product in May of this year.
Now that they're licensing the Mac OS, I can ask Radius to do one of these. What do you guys say? And Apple, if you want to do a real net client, let's do a deal! [Dave is forever the optimist...]
I was interviewed thru email by Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Time Magazine, firstname.lastname@example.org, this week. They're doing a piece on Bill Gates and the Internet. I wrote a 6-step process that tells how I think it will play out in the web client business. And of course if anyone controls the client side, they also control the server. Here's my tale...
1. Microsoft bundles a web browser with Windows 95. Already announced. License source code so they can improve it. Probably part of the deal.
2. Respond to customer and developer feedback. Give them the features that the web is sorely missing (there are a lot of them).
3. Pay lip service to the standards process, *if* Microsoft is invited. They'd love to not be invited. Fairly good chance they won't be invited.
4. Hold a developer's conference (say in 1997, maybe as early as 1995). Invite various experts from the editorial side, but no other client companies are on stage (they're allowed in the audience, where they grouse at Microsoft's arrogance, to no avail, of course).
5. Announce Microsoft's super-enhanced-web standard. Totally backward compatible with the existing (by now totally messed up) standard (because of infighting among the other client vendors). The press misses the point, hails Microsoft as observing the importance of backward compatibility.
6. Apple bundles Insignia Solutions' new SoftWindows, which includes a Microsoft-compatible web browser.
But -- this might not work this time around.
PS: There's a CyberSalon on Saturday in Berkeley. And tonight is the 100th Well Office Party (WOP) in Sausilito. I'll be at both parties. See you there!
PPS: One of my subscribers suggests dropping the "amusing" part of "Amusing Rants from Dave Winer's Desktop." They say it's self-praising, and therefore not appropriate. That wasn't my intention. I'm saying that they're Amusing Rants as opposed to Earthshaking Discoveries or Radical Pronouncements or Stirring Eloquence. Amusing Rants is my business. If you're not amused, please let me know. We aim to please! [Dig we must?]
PPPS: As always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list. And it's OK to forward it or repost it anywhere you like. The list is expanding -- I'm always happy to add new names. Send email to email@example.com.