Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

InfoWorld: The New Web Order

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:2/6/1999; 8:54:44 AM
Topic:InfoWorld: The New Web Order
Msg #:2726
Prev/Next:2725 / 2727

Re: Welcome to the new Web order, InfoWorld, 2/8/99.

This is a milestone piece. It focuses on the process by which web content is managed. In the past web sites were viewed as static entities, but from the beginning we had a different philosophy, that useful websites are dynamic, not at the level of how the pages are rendered, rather in how the sites evolve, how new content is added, and what talents are needed at which points in the content flow, and what problems need to be solved to make the website useful to readers.


Spend a minute with the graphic that Infoworld included:

This is the core of our philosophy, and it's now in practice at many Frontier-managed sites, including

You can read our words that describe this process on the What is Frontier? page on the Frontier 5 site.

Only part of the philosophy

The graphic describes our philosophy circa 1996, about three years ago, when we realized that site management is a groupware problem, not a productivity problem, and started developing accordingly. In the interim our vision has expanded, and the implementation caught up with that vision, yielding Frontier 6, which is coming soon (you're using it right now to read this message).

Three views

Let's focus on what the site reader sees in the InfoWorld graphic. In our opinion there are three key views to the material published on the website:

  1. Hierarchy -- A Yahoo-style categorization structure, parallel to the table of contents in front of a book.
  2. Time -- What's new now? A news page is a time interface, and a good content system should also provide a way to find out what happened on the site on a given day. For example, I'd like to go back and read what InfoWorld said about Netscape's decision to release their browser as Open Source, about a year ago. The site doesn't have such an interface, but it would be a welcome feature for researchers and other interested readers.
  3. Searching -- In my opinion, every site should have a search facility, it should be fast, easy to use, easy to find, current, and usable. Some people feel searching should be the last resort, but I disagree. The web teaches people how to search. Most of the popular portal sites began as search engines. The science of searching websites is still in its infancy. There hasn't been much innovation here, but much innovation is possible, especially in focused searching, for individual publications and focused communities. For example, there should be a search engine for the cross-platform scripting community. There should be one for doctors treating a certain kind of illness, and there should be one for reporters covering certain kinds of stories. Lots of work still to be done here, and the rewards should be great, just look at the market caps of the search engine companies, even the technology companies, such as Inktomi.

Integration is key

In our opinion, these three views can be integrated into the content management system very effectively. And if they are integrated, there are huge synergies, in ease of use and configuration; in performance, for the system managers, writers and readers; and in utility for all.

We've noticed that writers need the same access features as readers. If you write for a site that has an excellent search facility, the quality of writing goes up. We've seen this before, the best software designers are users of the product they're working on. The best site writers also use the site they write for.

Annotation is a key feature for site users, evidenced by the growth of discussion groups like this one, but the flip-side of that is browser-based content editing and collaboration features for people who write for the site, features which all web writers want. Again, the writers share a need with readers.

Evolution of content development

We're very close to delivering a content system that makes all three views easy for system managers to set up and deploy.

It's in this context that I said that Fusion and FrontPage were the false starts, that they didn't reflect the nature of real-world websites. However, I don't want to imply that the competition is not moving, they surely are, perhaps more quietly than we are.

Importance of standards

That's why now, more than ever, as we enter a new competitive space, open standards that give customers choice are crucially important for all companies playing in this space. Closed proprietary interfaces will cause customers to freeze and wait for a shakeout, limiting growth for all. We must make our content systems and editorial tools easily replaceable to allow customers to move forward without fear of lock-in.


Questions and comments are welcome. I want to learn more on how to pitch the benefits of Frontier 6. It would help to know what questions these ideas raise. Thanks!

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