The SF Web-O'Lution
Thursday, January 26, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Welcome to my desktop.
This time, I come to you from a new place. This is the first DaveNet piece not authored in Silicon Valley. It's also the first DaveNet piece not authored on a 68000.
I'm looking out my window at San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge is to my left. Sausilito straight ahead. Alcatraz to the right. Go into the living room. Telegraph and Russian Hills. The TransAmerica Pyramid peeks out behind a hill (it looks like a cottage!). You hear the cable cars at night. Sparks from the cars on their tracks light up the neighborhood. My friends say that my mountain home is quiet. I know what they mean. I forgot how noisy cities are. I realize that it's been over 15 years since I lived in a city. It's just grrrreat to be back!
Having a second place in San Francisco is part treat for myself, part business. I need a personal San Francisco Point of Presence. The Web-O'Lution is happening here in the city.
Glad to be here!
I just upgraded my entire Mac setup, got a PowerPC 8100, totally loaded. Got a good price from Tom Santos at MacAdam on Folsom Street in SF (I don't know Tom's email). While I was at it, I bought the PowerBook 540C I've been renting for the last few months. Color, big, light, a totally beautiful computer.
Both systems are fast, even running the old pre-PowerPC programs. I've yet to be blown away by any *huge* performance boost, but then I haven't installed native versions of any apps yet. So I still am looking forward (with excitement!) to find out how much faster this machine is. I'm hoping to be blown away.
I'm a software guy. I know nothing about hardware. I like it that way. But I also just *love* hardware. Because fast big pretty hardware is pure fun. That's it.
Did I think that Apple would be able to turn the PowerPC corner so easily and gracefully? I had big doubts.
This wasn't an easy transition. But they made it look easy. I'm using a new CPU, and software that was built with no idea that it would be running on a different CPU. This is great engineering and great platform management.
My benchmark for Mac compatibility is MORE 3.0, released by Symantec more than four years ago. My fear: one of these days Apple is going to release an operating system that breaks MORE.
But not yet! I'm writing this on a PowerPC running System 7.5, with all the options turned on -- MORE 3.0 is runnin like a champ! Whew... [It's mission-critical for me.]
These are great computers!
I've been thinking about this for quite some time. Have we ever defined what a platform is? It's one of those hypish buzzwords that actually proved to be useful. It stuck. 10 years later we're still talking about them. Cool. But what is a platform? Maybe if we understand what one is, we can have better ones?
I have a good idea of who owns them -- and this will come as a surprise to platform vendors -- it isn't the platform vendor!
They own a piece of the platform. And to some extent they control it, but control is always an illusion, and always fear-driven, negative, and self-defeating. When it runs its cycle, you end up with nothing to control. So I don't care if you own the source code to the operating system, it doesn't belong exclusively to you.
Who has more invested in the platform? Developers have more invested than the vendor, but users totally overwhelm all platform commercializers. Their investment is the sum of items 1-3, following:
1. All the revenue ever received by the platform vendor minus the "retired" installed base (some Mac Pluses aren't in use now, none of the Mac 128s).
2. All the revenue ever received by developers. Minus the same retirement factor, above.
3. All the hours spent using the platform by all users. Creating new content. And creating software (Isn't a spreadsheet a program? Where's the line? I don't see it.) This number vastly overshadows items 1 and 2. (Subtract the value of time lost due to crashes and buggy features).
And what's the platform vendor's equity in the platform? Only this: the possible option to upgrade the installed base. But it's always just a possibilty. Someday maybe the users won't go where you want them to go. It's happened before, take a look at the dBASE 4.0 release that drove Ashton-Tate into oblivion. The stakes are huge, you're betting your growth every time you take a step.
In other words, every transition is an opportunity for the platform vendor to completely lose it.
And platforms can be large or small. Apple is a platform vendor. So is Metrowerks. [You haven't heard of them? You will!]
We need to acknowledge a successful transition when it happens, and never assume a transition is going to be successful, until it is.
Back to earth! AutoWeb 1.0b4 is out to testers, and getting good marks. In a couple of weeks, I expect to be able to point you to new websites, other than my own, that are managed by AutoWeb.
There are lots of new tweaks, touches and bugfixes in 1.0b4. And one really outstanding feature, suggested by Adam Engst, firstname.lastname@example.org. He asked: "Can AutoWeb see email addresses and newsgroup names and URLs in the text and make them hot?" It can now! Check it out at my msen.com website. As of yesterday, every time you see an email address in a DaveNet piece, you can click on the address, and up pops an email window. Type in your message. You just sent email!
Same with URLs. Any time you see an http://www.xxx.com/ in the text of a DaveNet piece, you can click on it to go to the page. This feature accrues to all AutoWeb installations!
Pretty soon we'll be ready to flip the switch on UserLand OnLine. AutoWeb will be our first centerpiece, but there are two or more new products to roll out thru the rest of 1995, all for the net, and all currently uncontested in the market. Blue sky! Yes!!! [Go 9ers!]
My enthusiasm here is totalllllly real.
Back to earth again!
I'm looking for a few more places to run AutoWeb before opening up. I'm interested in connecting with real publishing operations. Print publishers going online or already online. Consultants that build systems of web pages. Unix people who have Macs on their desk. Also looking for people who are befuddled by the net. But not too befuddled, you must already have Netscape installed on your system. I can't help people get on the air, at least not yet...
Most of all I'm looking for great writers who want to try out their ideas on the worldwide web.
Send email to email@example.com if you have time to try out AutoWeb over the next couple of weeks. System requirements: Macintosh running System 7.0 or greater, Netscape 1.0N, MacTCP connection.
Let's have fun!
PS: I'm also looking for people who have graphics that they want to show off on the web. Rick Smolan with his "Passage To Vietnam" content comes to mind...
PPS: I thought of another form of equity the platform vendor has in the platform -- relationships. The extent that they have the trust of other players in the platform determines how much power they have to move the platform forward.
PPS: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.