Wednesday, December 8, 1999 by Dave Winer.
What a week. Last time I wrote we had just shipped Manila, also known as Frontier 6.1.Between then and now we have started over 300 new websites. 300! Here's how it happened.
We shipped Manila last Wednesday. On Thursday people are puzzled. What is Manila? We had screen shots and lots of writing, but people were still confused.
I decided that we needed to get a lot of people actually using Manila quickly, while the interest was high, to feed word of mouth and to give Manila a shot at defining web content management, a market that most people don't understand.
For the first time we had a way for people to experience the power of web content management, with nothing more than a web browser. So quickly we started developing an app, one that would allow any UserLand.Com member to create their own website using a browser.
Luckily we have a reserve of unused domain names for these kinds of projects. I decided to use EditThisPage.Com. At first I wanted to limit it to 250 sites, but Scott Loftesness, a friend of UserLand, convinced me to take the limit off. I did.
On Saturday night a bulletin went out to all registered UserLand.Com members. Come create a website! 60-day free trial. UserLand.Com members only. And 300 of them did.
We're still trying to get a handle on all the stuff that's being created on EditThisPage.Com.
One of the tools we're using is a page that ranks all the sites based on the number of hits.
This is not a scientific measure, but it's at least some indication of how we're doing.
I've spent most of the last three weeks writing about Manila. I wrote about the software and how it can be used, but up to this point I haven't written much about the *market* that Manila is starting. As one of the first products in this market, we will have some say in defining it.
With Manila, writing for the web is now on the same level as writing for email. It's so easy that almost anyone who can use a computer can do it.
As eGroups hosts email lists for the public, with EditThisPage.Com we're hosting websites for the public. And there is an opening for a Critical Path-like service for outsourcing site hosting operations for big organizations. And there is a Cobalt-type opportunity for sealed-box cheap server hardware for LANs and Intranets. (Hint to Microsoft: If you want NT to play in the last market, the pricing structure for OEMs must change.)
That's what Manila is. It's as if we made the first mail server, for the web.
I think the opportunity is pretty large. We sell servers for Windows and Macintosh, almost all versions of either OS. We've priced it like a professional mail server, $899 with free updates for a year.
We're connecting the servers into a network of content-managed sites. There will be lots of services we can offer to this market, the first one I want to offer is offloaded search engines, then syndication and aggregation software and services, advertising and link exchanges, e-commerce service bureaus and whatever else our customers tell us they want.
Key point: all of the interfaces connecting these services to Manila sites will be open and subject to competition. No technology-level lock-in here. There's no reason for a competitor to be incompatible. I wanted to make sure all the potential customers in this market know this up-front.
We want people to set up hosting services for sites both within an organization and for the paying public. In the software business this is called a "developer opportunity". There's a way for hosting services to add safe macros, tiny bits of script code that connect the Manila page rendering process to back-end services. This is how the various services will be differentiated. The opportunity is explained on this page.
Think of modules you could create that plug into Manila sites. Links to project management and workflow systems. A multi-user calendar. Web-hosted email. Think of the market that buys this kind of stuff. ASPs, Intranets, publishing companies. Places where price usually isn't the issue. These are good markets for Frontier developers. And they're new markets for us, because without control over macros, you couldn't deploy Frontier in an ISP environment. This is new in 6.1.
And because Manila is implemented in a database and scripting environment with a website framework, HTTP server and XML deeply integrated, the door is so incredibly open. We ship all the source for Manila with Frontier 6.1. If you've got an idea and there's a programmer nearby you can probably make it happen.
So, finally, the offer to UserLand.Com members was so successful, now I want to make the same offer to DaveNet readers.
A complete web writing and design environment. Stories, pictures, templates, a "flippable" home page, calendar, membership, prefs, discussion group, syndication, shortcuts, contributing editors, bulletins and much much more. All in your web browser, with Edit This Page buttons everywhere.
Your 60-day free trial EditThisPage.Com site awaits you.
Get your holiday shopping done *next* weekend, this weekend you can experience a revolution in web writing, at no charge. Now there's nothing stopping you from finding out where the web is going next, right now.
Let's have fun!