The Magic of Windows
Wednesday, July 8, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Good afternoon DaveNet!
It's a great Wednesday. I'm feeling so good. Do I only write these emails when I feel great? No, not, no way, for sure. But these are my favorite times to write. I'm feeling so good this morning I just had to do a piece.
Stuff is flowing well in our product, company, and user community. It's been an interesting transition, moving from being a freeware company to being a commercial company. It's caused us to look at everything we do. Everything changes. Where there was no conflict before, now there is one. Where there was no synergy before (same idea, different spin) now there is synergy.
But everything is connected, we're still the same people at UserLand, we still care about the same things, and we're closing loops that were opened in earlier DaveNets.
In Frontier 5.1, shipped a couple of weeks ago, we achieved an important milestone. We're the first to ship an XML-RPC communication system. See this DaveNet piece from February for background:
I think we played the technology game perfectly, and we also played the political game. Details sooon. Lots of BOGU. Do you know what that means? It feels soooo good!
So yesterday I read an InfoWorld interview with David Pool, CEO of DataChannel, touting his WebBroker XML-RPC protocol.
He says he has no competition! Huh?
He has competition. We're it. We may be his worst nightmare, with a 10-year R&D advantage, deep experience with this stuff, and lots of users, and a full server-side content management system, and editorial tools, on Mac and NT.
DataChannel is a good marketing company. They're pushing another idea that we implement in Frontier 5.1, they call it Publish-to-the-web; we call it the WebEdit client/server:
It's the second killer feature in Frontier 5.1. I've been writing about this repeatedly in DaveNet. There are four kinds of people working on websites. Writers, designers, graphics and systems people. Writers need writing tools, word processors, email programs. Designers need layout tools like Netobjects Fusion, Dreamweaver, Cyberstudio, etc. Graphics people use PhotoShop, and systems people run servers that tie all this work together.
WebEdit is a prototype for the kind of connections that writing and design tools should have with content management systems. A simple menu, with easy to understand commands that takes the contents of the frontmost window and ships it to the server, to be run thru templates and placed in the doctree of a web server.
A workgroup problem that requires a workgroup solution. Why? Because websites are groupware.
Every market research firm covering the industry, from Seybold to Forrester is looking for the killer app in this area. My claim, my firm belief, is that Frontier 5.1 and its successors are that. We're the game to beat. I'm confident in the software.
In the spirit of fair competition, I'd be happy to run a rebuttal from Pool, or someone else from DataChannel.
Porting to Windows was the best thing we ever did. Even though our Mac sales dwarf our Windows sales, so far, the Windows version of Frontier has been our ticket to respect.
The press and analysts take us much more seriously, as do the other software developers. Our work in XML-RPC never would have gained momentum if we had been Mac-only.
But the secret is that the Mac platform has a very loyal following, it's very active in web development. Our competitors bet on the Mac going away, and we bet the other way. I can say this openly because a reality distortion field protects my competitors from hearing what I say. Life sure is funny.
We want to bet on Linux and Perl.
This may mean a Frontier for Linux, which would probably take a couple of years, or there may be a quicker connection possible, in the form of a runtime environment that easily hosts Frontier-managed sites. Super high-flow commercial sites require a powerful dynamic runtime. Frontier is not that runtime, yet, even on NT. Our server environment is great for content management applications. You can deploy a modest-volume dynamic site on a Frontier server, but if you're taking a million hits a day...
If you want to run a Yahoo, Hotmail or Excite, Linux is the best choice. We hear this over and over from our customers. So a connection to a dynamic Linux server environment is ideal. We're going to study this, and would be happy to work with any group working on such software. It's good business for us and our customers.
To expand the market, which is not a problem right now, but something we'll want to address in the future, hosting Perl scripts is going to be a very important direction. There's a massive audience there. Lots of braincells grok Perl. We can add so much value, a great editing environment, an integrated object database that manages HTML and XML content, a comprehensive verb set, and connections to other software thru support for Apple Events, XML-RPC and (still diggin) COM. Perl and Frontier make huge sense together.
We also have ideas in writing and organizing tools. This is an area we know well, based on our experience with ThinkTank and MORE in the 80s. In the four-group model, these products are aimed at writers, not systems people, as Frontier is. We see the industry ignoring these people, or fumbling. The first efforts in HTML editors were clumsy because HTML is not a wizzy medium. We can do better by approaching sites as structures and articles as text.
In the new commercial environment I'm still working on the right mix of voices. When I talk with customers and potential customers, as the president of UserLand Software, I have a different voice. Here's an example.
But when I write DaveNets, obviously I still am President Dave, but I'm also allowed to digress.
Many years ago, when I ran a software company called Living Videotext, my picture appeared in Business Week along with a story about my company. Somehow it made it to my hippie uncle, living in Florida in a beach house on the edge of the intercoastal waterway near St. Augustine.
The BusinessWeek article referred to me as President Winer. My uncle thought this was hilarious. Unknown to me, he and his friends started referring to each other as President This or President That. There was President Ken, President Dot, President Thurman, even their cat, the Dump Kitty, was a President.
Yeah, when I write to my customers, I show deep respect by being serious. And when I write a DaveNet piece I show deep respect by being funny!
Over there the motto is Thanks for your support!
Same motto here.