What's Going On?
Friday, February 28, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I wish there was a definitive music website. A place where I could go to find out who wrote a song, in what year, how it did on the charts, see the lyrics, and of course, download and play the song.
I'd be happy to pay money to use that site. People who think I'm against making money should know that I enjoy making money myself, and further, I enjoy paying money for things I like.
But I understand that most creative people don't do it for the money. And I hope that such a music site would also carry the music of people who are happy to give it away.
A the end of the last piece, Back in the USSR, I talked about a handshake with Apple that deprives me of an enemy. I didn't get specific. It may have been a mistake to send that out; not because it isn't true, it is, rather because the substance of the achievement is still being defined.
A new kind of server, we call it a Content Server, renders text according to the designer's spec, written in HTML with special mark-ups indicating where the title and body text, and other standard elements, go. The architecture is totally open, it's object oriented, properties are inherited, so you can go very deep with your tweaks.
The publishing software does the work of today's HTML coder. It takes a process that used to be done by hand, and automates it. It makes it possible for sites that are more than brochures. Sites worth coming back to. It leverages skilled HTMLer's work over lots of pages, and over time. And it makes it easy to change the look of a site without coordinating with the writers.
It's a place for template designers to plug in their designs, for graphics people to plug in their GIFs, JPEGs and Java applets.
The goal, stated simply, was to separate content from design and provide a framework that allows people to work together. To automatically manage large dynamic sites with lots of authors, and prepare web content for migration to new distribution methods, such as push, MCF, or whatever else might become interesting.
Designers work in HTML. Authors submit their pieces via email or FTP or file sharing, using plain text tools like BBEdit, Notepad, or Eudora; or fancier editors such as PageMill, HomePage, GoLive or FrontPage.
Writing (some call it authoring) can happen on any platform that supports email or FTP. That's everything of course.
The standards of the Internet make it possible. The content serving software, built in Frontier, runs only on Macs. But remember, websites are LANs. Look around, you'll find a Mac. Plug it into your Ethernet, install the software and get to work!
We are also releasing the Frontier-based ClassAds server so these large dynamic sites with lots of authors can be supported by lots of advertising.
I've heard some great ideas for making money with these sites. I'll share the ideas with you once the sites are on the air. In the meantime here's a hint -- imagine a commission-based ClassAds website for student housing. Oh yeah! I feel flow.
The key is to make it possible to manage a medium-size news/opinon site, with advertising support, with a minimum financial investment, just like the one I've been operating at www.scripting.com, except totally turnkey.
The hardware needed to run the software costs less than $5000. Designers can create low-bandwidth static sites that can be served thru a 28K modem. Or the pages can easily be served from an upstream server on a higher-bandwidth connection.
I first wrote about this last May, almost a year ago, in Watch This!, which was a seminal piece for me. At that point we changed directions and headed into a new area, publishing systems for the web.
The vision is partially realized in our "NewsPage" suite, released in late January. We're reaching the next level in time for InternetWorld on March 10, and the level after that for the Seybold Conference in late April.
They're supporting this vision. The lightbulbs are happening. They're singing the same song as we. A return to the view that developers build markets and the platform vendor enthusiastically sells hardware to run the software. You'll hear Apple's story in March, and it will sound a lot like ours.
That's happened before with me and Apple. The first time, with MORE, in the mid-eighties, we opened up the government market for Macs by giving the users what they wanted -- an easy way to produce presentation foils from outlines. The product was a sales rocket for us. Our revenues were too small to be noticed by Apple. But we sold a lot of machines for them and helped to build an important market. A win-win.
In the early nineties I also contributed a vision to Apple, in the form of system level scripting and interapplication communication. It was not a win-win. Apple bought into the vision, but replaced our software with theirs, ultimately succeeding in creating a sizable base of script writers, but forcing us and our software out of the market. The results of this strategy are well documented in the back issues of DaveNet, no need to repeat the stories now.
This time, it appears the common strategy will be built around our software. That's the smile behind the handshake. It's realistic and responsible to build around what we already have working. That should be our reward for having anticipated a market in time to make a difference.
It matters less that our vision is right or wrong, if we're wrong, Apple is free to support another approach in the future. Same here. If the Mac platform continues its freefall, even with our best efforts, we're free to continue development on other platforms.
At least at this moment, our interests are aligned. A win-win is possible. It's going to work! I feel that in my entire being. Things had to slide pretty far at Apple for them to look around and find that there's a nugget out there, a way to sell computers that they hadn't tried yet. A diamond that needs polishing. An enemy that can become an ally.
I'm very easy to spot since I'm so vocal, and have an enthusiastic and friendly group of webmasters that use my stuff, including people inside Apple. When Apple completes the survey of what the scripting community is contributing to the Mac platform, the fireworks will really start going. I, of course, am pointing them to all the hot websites.
That's what I meant by crossing a line. There's no going back. The AppleScript-Frontier tragedy is behind us. We're solidly in the web publishing market, with Apple's support. I wanted to go forward, and we're now going forward.
PS: The first revs of the software will be publicly available next week. Our schedule slipped. Same old same old!
PPS: Support is handled on the Frontier-webmaster mailing list operated by Stanford University. Pointers will be on the www.scripting.com home page.
PPPS: Who did the song? Was it Smokey Robinson?