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Frontier defined for Next people

I got into an interesting thread with people from Next's WebObjects community in response to the DaveNet piece Apple Changes. There were some concerns about Apple's positioning of WebObjects relative to WebSTAR.

One of my correspondents told me that WebSTAR is just an HTTP server. I responded: "Dead wrong. WebSTAR is a market. With its own creative and ambitious developer community."

Avie Tevanian sent me an email asking what Frontier is. A totally positive direction for this discussion to take. I thought it would be interesting to share the response since people from both communities are reading these days.

Here's what I said:

"Frontier is a multi-threaded native scripting environment built around a fast object database, with full development tools, UI tools, complete verb set, with full access to the operating system, the net, and scriptable apps, which includes all the clients, servers and most of the content tools. With menu sharing, we have UI hooks into the menu bars of most of the net apps. Netscape, MSIE, Eudora, Claris Emailer, Quark XPress, BBEdit, all the web servers, etc.

"We have our own language and host AppleScript, and want to add JavaScript, and also are working on hosting Java bits.

"Frontier is also the most powerful CGI enviroment on the Mac, probably on Windows too, but we don't emphasize that because our unique power in website building for deploying on other OSes.

"In the last couple of years we've built a powerful market leading object oriented website development framework. We're moving into publishing systems, we did the first test of the publishing tools at Internetworld in the Apple Newsroom project. At Seybold we're doing the second test.

"We're porting to Win32, hope to go to Solaris, and are interested in going to Rhapsody. I've been interested in doing Next development since the late 80s, but due to personal difficulties, we were not welcomed by your founder. Now that Next is part of Apple, we're interested in taking another look."

BTW, the best tutorial for Frontier as an object-oriented website framework is at:

Dave Winer

On Saturday morning I ran another DaveNet piece, entitled Guerrino.

Later in the day, here's a message I sent to the Frontier-talk, Webstar-talk and MIDAS mailing lists, and I understand that it will be forwarded to the WebObjects list. It was in reply to a message from, a member of the WebObjects community.

He said:

>>Most NeXT people have alot more cross-platform experience than Mac folks do. I developed commercial and vertical stuff for Mac up until just a couple of years ago.

Then I said:

Those kinds of generalizations aren't helpful. Based on what I've heard so far, I think there's a lot in common between the two communities. For example, I started my career on Unix running on PDP-11s, moved to CP/M, then the Apple II, then the IBM PC and clones, and then the Mac, and now NT 4.0.

Chuck has a similar background. The differences are in the kinds of audiences we've been serving. We tend to work with larger numbers of people, I think, given the relative sizes of the markets. Our users tend to be involved in publishing and/or education in some way, given the markets that the Mac is strong in.

A lot has happened in the last two years in the Mac web market. It was less than two years ago that Frontier was released for free. At the point you left us, none of our web stuff had happened. We've made a lot of progress in those two years.

I understand the focus of your list, and won't come visit personally at this time. We have a similar thing going on the four Frontier lists. It wouldn't be appropriate to come there to talk about another way of doing websites.

Perhaps this would be workable -- I'll ask on the Frontier-talk list if there's anyone working in WebObjects, if not, ask that someone get in your loop. You might, if you're interested, ask the same question on the WebObjects list.

I also recognize the ambitions you have for the execs at Apple. We've been there a long time. It's better to make connections in the communities than rely on Apple people to coordinate us. They have important jobs, for sure. They're looking for a common message, and agreement. We can lead them, that's what Guerrino and Amelio have said, publicly. We're flexible in the Mac web community, I think. We all want to win, have no problem with WebObjects people winning too.

I think Guerrino is saying is that he understands that a lot has been accomplished in the Mac web world.

Pay attention to that message, because it's true.

You may if you want, forward this message to your list.


PS: To the Frontier-talk, Webstar-talk and MIDAS people, this is a slice of a discussion I've been having with people from the WebObjects community and several execs at Apple. It's an awakening. We're discovering them and vice versa. A few flames have erupted, but nothing big. The question is what does WebObjects do and how does it relate to what's already working in the Mac web world. I think we have to find some way to connect with these people. I bet they're doing excellent work. Someone needs to look.

PPS: To join the WebObjects list, send mail to with

subscribe WebObjects Your Name

in the body of your message.

Henri Asseily has a report on a demo of WebObjects at InternetWorld. It's at

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