Connecting with Blogger
Monday, August 13, 2001 by Dave Winer.
If you read the BigPub's you might think that only BigCo's do Web services. They're making so much noise about it, it leaves one to wonder if there's really any substance behind the puffs of vapor that surround the supposed next phase of the Internet.
Tim O'Reilly says he wants to see an Internet operating system, and guess what, that's what I want too. And today, with just a little fanfare, I want to tell you about a very exciting new development in that direction.
Blogger is a browser-based tool for editing a news oriented weblog site, or "blog," as they call them in Blogger-Land. We're competitors, so sometimes they cause me grief that only a competitor can. I once said on Scripting News "Blogger Blogger Blogger. If you say Blogger one more time I'll blog all over you."
But hey they make a great product, the press loves them, and they are very successful. In the dotcom downturn it's one of a handful of services that's growing by leaps and bounds while the headlines say everything is collapsing.
But Blogger is tiny, it's just one person, Evan Williams, who's writing the software, keeping the servers running, and supporting hundreds of thousands of users. At the same time, Williams has created a little revolution, by creating one of the most intriguing Web services ever.
What is that?
I'd say that the Internet is 25 percent cash register and 75 percent writing environment.
If you adopt the writing environment view as both Blogger and UserLand do, it's easy to see how Web services make a difference, they allow desktop apps to connect to the cloud.
With the new functionality that Blogger has developed, you can now use our writing and design tools to create for a Blogger website. It's done through an open and documented XML-RPC interface, so it will be possible for tools on any platform to hook into Blogger.
What makes Blogger unique is that it's quickly driving developer and user adoption of XML-RPC. It's as close to a killer app as we're likely to get. There's already Python, Perl, COM and Frontier glue that connects with Blogger. There will be all kinds of connections.
Open interfaces, and developer and user choice. This is what the Internet makes possible. Right on.
It's even better because we LittleCo's did it for ourselves. It works great on Windows, Mac OS or Linux with no trap doors or locked trunks. Evan is using the Helma XML-RPC library for Java. How about that, we got Java talking to Frontier in a meaningful way. It took a few years, but what the heck.
On the other hand, since XML-RPC crosses all OSes, licenses and cultures, the Blogger interface is inclusive, because commercial developers, consultants, VARs, in-house programmers, and open source developers can all work cooperatively, side by side, in open and fair competition.
My friends this is a blueprint for how the outside-Microsoft developer community of the future, one that includes IBM, The Apache Foundation, Bare Bones, Adobe, AOL, Macromedia, BEA, Richard Stallman and anyone else, will work in the future. If you've been thinking that the software industry is headed for more stagnation, study this development model, it works, and it's revolutionary and simple. Everyone is invited. No exceptions.
We've been at this for a long time.
In 1988 we developed an interapplication communication toolkit for the Macintosh, followed by a script development and runtime environment centered around the architecture. Then over a few years, the major Macintosh apps wired up, and power users were able to write scripts that viewed apps as toolkits, combining them as they see fit, in ways that their developers didn't envision. Then each app developed a community of users who cultivated the features that we put into the scripting environment and groomed the wires provided by the app developers so they would work better for future scripters. We ported to Windows, which is the other major end-user operating system, but by then we were already Internet developers, so we invested in XML-RPC and SOAP, and now are moving again to create cultures at the intersections.
In perspective, Blogger now takes its place alongside Quark XPress, FileMaker, PageMaker, Eudora, Netscape, MSIE, StuffIt, and all kinds of other scriptable apps. They all interface the same way to a UserLand script writer. The glue scripts for Blogger contain xml.rpc calls instead of appleEvent calls. To the script writer, an app is accessed in the same way, whether it's on a local machine, or is a Web service over the Internet.
We work with competitors to empower users and other developers, and make it easy for users who want to, to become developers. That's the philosophy of the Internet, and it's always been the philosophy of serious developers, even those who work at BigCo's. Sometimes leadership makes us take the low road, through patents or other lock-in strategies, but imho that's when they are leading through fear, not power. It's always right to be compatible, and it's even better to plan for it, to design for it, commit to it.
So thank you to Blogger for having the courage to be one of the first to open its Web app to scripting through open interfaces. A bright future awaits us. I'm sure of it.