The Struggle to Stay Wizzy
Wednesday, March 19, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Let's unwind and relax a little.
These sure are confusing times in the Mac business. For example, when PC WEEK does a summary of the winners and losers in the Apple world, why do they leave developers out? Yet at the same time, they set the goal for Apple -- get more developers and keep the ones you have. A disconnect. Isn't anyone paying attention to see that there's consistency? Since the press sets the agenda for Apple, don't they have a responsibility to think it thru?
Talking with Dan Gillmor at the San Jose Mercury over the weekend, I asked the same question. When you judge Apple, dead or not, and the Mac, viable or not, why do you include developers in your analysis, on the negative side, but not on the positive side?
Some developers are more even viable than the platform vendor. After all, Microsoft develops for the Mac, and no one talks about Microsoft going out of business. We make assumptions about Microsoft's behavior in the Mac market, but then don't look at the facts. They're leading in a lot of areas in the Mac net platform. Why discount it?
Other developers are leaders, like Adobe, Quark, Netscape and Macromedia. They can provide what Apple doesn't have enough of, the ability to move developers. They have a lot of power when it comes to defining the platform. Hey, an Apple computer without their communities isn't much of a platform.
Other developers supply breakthroughs, taking huge risks on personal visions. Why not include them in the big picture?
John Warnock of Adobe took a shot at Rhapsody in MacWEEK. He asked what we're all wondering -- should we go with Apple on this trip? Adobe has made its point. Rhapsody is a big step.
Yet the Mac has a life and life goes on. It's now clear that most of the software assets built around System 7 live outside Apple. It's going to cost a lot of money to move those apps to new APIs. Where will the money come from?
Leaders in the Unix world are more openly arrogant about the Mac OS. "It was a bad idea in the first place," they seem to be saying. "We're going to fix it." They think that because AppleShare is slower than FTP that we don't geek the web. Uh huh.
Geeks at war! Man. Ohhh. Why can't we be friends? We look at Unix. They look at our stuff. We see databases. I don't know what they see.
Apple has always had a hard time selling what it has. Projecting into the future, seeing something much better over the horizon, but failing to notice that the table in front of them is filled with treats and wonders and seated around it are simple citizens hoping to make a few bucks selling software. De Luca gets this, but what about the rest of Apple? We'll see.
For Mac developers who are looking forward to the day when they can have thriving businesses in this land, the hopes are growing thin. Like Warnock, we looked at Next, and decided no. What changed?
Is there a solution to this puzzle?
Stay with me...
I take it for granted, talking with my developer buddies, that Apple screwed up big in the last few years. The Internet was happening and Apple was ignoring it. That's our story. Never questioned, never challenged.
But there's another view. Apple wasn't ignoring the net, they were paying attention, but they didn't know what to do about it.
The big casualty in the onslaught of the net is wizzyness. It's an anti-wizzy environment, it's in the genetics of the net to not be wizzy. Scripts, HTML, databases, Java. Netscape isn't as high tech as OpenDoc. Not a wizzy design tool in sight. And the net is stubborn. It resists attempts to make it wizzy.
But the Mac launched as the computer for the rest of us, wysiwyg was the rule. It was written into the canons at Apple. Inviolable rule. If it isn't wizzy it doesn't belong on our platform.
You can't judge this as right or wrong. We all have rules about the evolution of our products. You can't make and market a product without having strong opinions about its character. Otherwise you're everything to everyone, you can't cooperate with anyone, and longterm that's a failing strategy. You have to stand for something and you can't be alone forever.
Apple wasn't wrong. I find it amazing that I can say that! They had their point of view, and their struggle, and it took a long time to let go. It's not at all surprising.
Here's the problem -- in addition to being the computer for the rest of us, the Mac is also an inexpensive and easy way to get a machine with lots of RAM, a big screen, and a big hard drive. A workstation. One that you can buy at a computer store or thru mail order. One that a lot of other people use. It's been there for about ten years.
Even geeks who love a command line like to play visual games. So you live with slow file sharing, a constantly changing interface to TCP, build your websites, geek out, even if Apple didn't want you to.
Because a Mac is just a computer, it can be perverted in a billion ways. But much of the web stuff is geekish, not wizzy. Ooops.
We stop hiding.
Follow both threads. Make the Mac deeper as a workstation. Feed the geeks. And we encourage the people who make wizzy editing tools to make them wizzier, and (here's the key point) develop new high-level connections between the wizzy tools and the geekish ones.
This totally fits into our vision of large dynamic sites with lots of authors. The authors use classic Macs, like the new lovely PowerBooks, and use friendly tools. When they save their text, it goes into a database to be rendered thru templates and a database. There's no change to the user interface.
We already have transport mechanisms that go over the local net. Let's hook the Apple Event interface up to TCP. Developers have to stop betting on Open Transport. OK. But the Apple Event culture is deep. Let's use that, or a derivative of it, as our cross-platform communication transport. Same API for communication with other apps running on the same machine. A huge performance boost is possible (the Apple Event Manager is slowww).
When Unix geeks sneer, show them what your software can do. Do they have CyberStudio, Fusion, FileMaker, HomePage, PageMill, and all the cool stuff in the pipe? No. They have great database connections. Very nice! Let's leverage all those wizzy tools to flow text and pictures and designs thru those great data storage systems.
We're ready to commercialize this stuff now. No more experiments needed. That's where we all meet. Soooon.
PS: Wysiwyg stands for what you see is what you get. Wizzy is a cute aphorism for wysiwyg. What's an aphorism? Check it out.
PPS: Do they have DaveNets on Unix? If so, I'd love to meet the people.