Why DaveNet Changed
Monday, April 10, 2000 by Dave Winer.
I have been peripherally involved in this project, as one of the co-authors of the SOAP spec, which according to Charles Fitzgerald of Microsoft is the underlying "fabric" of NGWS.
The articles that have appeared so far cast NGWS as all Microsoft stories are cast. The big lumbering aggressive gorilla moves, and the small folk, including (always) Sun's Bill Joy, scream foul. It's a familiar loop.
When we started the work with Microsoft, a little over two years ago, I said in a private email to Bill Gates that this was the most courageous thing that I had ever seen any platform vendor do. Two years later, now it's beginning to roll out, and I'd have to take away a few of the courage points, but still, if we keep an open mind, it may be one of the miracles of the Internet. A platform vendor giving up lock-in, because NGWS is built on the open standards of the Internet, XML and HTTP. If that's what's actually happening, it's the spirit of the Internet being embraced by the ultimate embracer, Mr. Gates.
We support what remains of Netscape, in the last few days we've done a lot of quick work to connect our innovations with theirs. But despite Netscape's mostly noble efforts, it's largely a one-browser world now, and we believe, based on experience that that means that not much interesting will happen in the future in the browser. The Web is what it is, not much more will happen. I'd love to be wrong about this, but that's how I'm betting.
We support Netscape in the hope that it will stimulate Microsoft to do some developer-driven stuff with MSIE. And in the last piece I called for the removal of MSIE from Microsoft to create a once-again competitive market, but these are both just attempts to bring back competitiveness. Neither of them are sure to do it.
But desktop apps are a whole other story. It's a virgin playing field. I am confident that patents won't play a role here because UserLand has already released a beta of the key breakthrough in this area. We have not (at this time) filed a patent application with the USPTO. We may still do it, we have a year from the release of the software to file. A lot of this depends on how the patent conversation evolves on the Web.
The two year lull gave us, my company, UserLand, a chance to get our act together. Like Microsoft, we're rolling out a new vision for the Web, one that's based not only on open standards, but also the power of desktop apps.
Dale Dougherty of O'Reilly tells a Jumping-With-No-Parachute story that's better than any I've heard before. Man jumps out of plane with no parachute. Plane cuts its engine and goes into a nosedive. Door stays open. Before both crash and die, the man goes back into the door and straps himself in. Plane powers up, regains altitude. Now that's guts!
I got email from Steve Jurvetson and Tim O'Reilly and many others urging me not to change the form of presentation of DaveNet. I appreciate these comments, because it implies that someone is reading what I'm writing. But email delivery of newletters is a very small part of what we do. And in the future, while there will be a way to receive my writing via email, if you just read my words in email, with no context, it will not make any sense at all.
I feel like we've already gotten to the disconnection point, that's why you see the change now. The comments I receive back from DaveNets, when I receive them, usually are missing the context of the piece. Private conversations I have with DaveNet subscribers, who diligently read them, confirm this. Our work in web applications surprises them. "Write about it in DaveNet!" they say. But I have I have.
Further, when a great story comes along that we have participated in, like the one developing with SOAP and NGWS, my point of view, that of a small but powerful independent developer, does not get included in the story. Bill Joy, Sun's chief technologist, always does, even though he hasn't shipped any software (that I know of) in twenty years. He pisses on our work. Says it's about Microsoft when it's not. So I'm taking a tactic from Joy's playbook. If I want your respect, I think I have to do two things. First, I must become more scarce. There's not much respect for someone who is so available. And second, I must make you come to me, on the Web, where the story is unfolding, on a daily basis. You have to feel a need for your fix, and make an investment in getting it.
Now I know I will lose a few readers. That's the way it goes. On a normal day I lose a few, and gain a few. Further, and this is a key point, it is not my goal to have the most readers. My goal is to create a new environment where small developers have a chance to produce software that millions of people use, without interference from large companies or the US government. I want to be one of those developers.
I've been playing it wrong. I've been acting as if I want a lot of readers. My new tactic is to tell a great story using the medium that I love and understand, and if I gain a great audience so much the better. (I already have a great audience, btw.) If my users, people who write for the Web, gain larger audiences, that's OK too. And if people who use other people's software gain larger audiences, guess what, I like that too. (But I don't want it all to come from one developer.)
My investment is in my medium, not in my name. "Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet." It seems that some of my readers don't agree. Well, if it's too much trouble to visit my site, we're not singing the same tune. For six years I've pumped bits into your email box. That's a long long time. Now it's time for you to do something good for the Internet.
Read, think, evaluate, open your mind, and come to the Web, where it's all happening. I don't just want your eyeballs, I want your minds. I'm willing to give up a few readers to get that.