XML Groupware and Other Big Ideas
Tuesday, December 1, 1998 by Dave Winer.
I wrote a long long piece yesterday on how we don't have any browser momentum now that Netscape is part of AOL, it's got to be winding down, just as innovation has virtually stopped in other mature software areas.
Here's a ZDNN article that makes that argument:
But.. It was just getting started! The browser wars brought it all to a stop, and now analysts are comparing browsers to TCP stacks, a commodity, a faceless bit of technology that everyone has, and few understand.
But web browsers aren't like TCP stacks. Think about it. A web browser is a user interface. You see it. It's visible. Sometimes it's all that you see. TCP stacks are invisible hidden things. And the web itself isn't like a TCP stack. It's like a library. A very big one.
A famous San Francisco radio personality, Scoop Nisker, has said many times, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." So instead of shipping that long piece, I took his advice and asked a question on our new Discussion Group. After 18 hours, the answer is clear, there are lots of things people want from their web browser, some very good juicy ideas.
In the browser world it's like the day after the SuperBowl. The day after Election Day. Is there an opportunity for change now that the browser war is over? Is it over?
What about web developers? Are we on our own? If so, great! We can make some of our own news. Or are we looking to Microsoft and AOL to give us the features we want? What about mozilla.org, Opera and other web browsers?
On to the next question..
Who should be the Person of the Millennium? This is a charming question because it forces you to think back to a time way before you were born (unless you're 1000 years old). What individual had the most impact or made the greatest contribution to who we are?
Our choice says a lot about what we value. Some people feel it should be a religious or spiritual leader. Some nominate a political revolutionary or someone who is legendary.
I have my own opinion, after reading several dozen messages on this, and I'd like to make two nominations for Person of the Millennium.
First, let's honor the indigenous human cultures that were destroyed by the advance of civilization.
At the end of the millennium, we pay so much attention to the benefits of civilization, the cities, the arts, the factories, the wires, but we seem to have lost sight of what we gave up, the human village.
This was the millennium where the human race left home for the city, and anonymity, and electronic prothsetic devices to simulate community (like DaveNet or the Discussion Group). We like these things because they emulate what we used to have.
Following on that, it makes sense to broaden the award to include recently extinct and endangered species, the forests, plains, deserts and sea coasts. Even the ocean floor has felt the impact of advancing civilization of the past millennium.
There are so many other ideas. We tackle the big issues here! We're a lucky generation because our lives span this time line. It will not be just another day because what happened in the last thousand years can set the stage for the next thousand.
Back to more mundane everyday accomplishments!
Quietly we've been testing a new runtime environment for our websites at UserLand. In early October we started the new Discussion Group, which is merely an HTML interface for the broader content management system that has been at the core of Frontier since mid-1996.
Behind the scenes there's a document database and rendering system, with lots of ways to flow content into it. We're starting to publish XML interfaces for this database, to allow authors to connect to the system without using a web browser, and eventually without using our editorial tools.
I think this is a first, so I wanted to claim it, and let others (possibly) object, and invite other developers of XML-based groupware to discuss standards in this area.
The reading part of our interface works now. For example, you can visit this URL to see the contents of message #598
Just change the number after the $ to see a different message.
The writing interface will involve an XML-RPC handler, so it will be a little more complicated, but not much more.
We'll keep diggin!