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

The Evangelist is In

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:9/8/1999; 6:40:56 AM
Topic:The Evangelist is In
Msg #:10741
Prev/Next:10740 / 10742

Writing for the web

Ever since I got this new editor that's wired right into my website (the Save command saves it directly into my CMS) I've been writing more evangelistic pieces early in the morning. Where I used to spend the time catching up on my email and writing brief responses to Discussion Group messages, now I just open a window, start writing, and see what happens. It's gotten so easy.

And after the writing is "finished" I take the [In Progress] disclaimer off and then people respond. And to my surprise, the writing isn't finished! I get more ideas. I incorporate other people's ideas into the piece. Add some links and a screen shot. The writing is tweaked, in real time, it's a fast process. I have a feeling that I'm using the most advanced editorial system in existence. I love that feeling. (It pays to click on Reload.)

An evangelistic message to Microsoft

Today I want to send an evangelistic message into Microsoft. The subject is web-based apps. The topic has been put on the agenda by Sun's acquisition and free distribution of StarDivision software, and some comments by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, indicating that they've been thinking about doing the same thing. Now, while StarDivision's software appears to be pretty ordinary, not especially web-enabled, there's an opportunity to bridge the gap between desktop writing tools and web storage, templating and content management.

There's an idea in the air, with all the low-level buzz about ASPs (an acroynym for Application Service Providers). The idea that's lurking around: let's move the heavy machinery, the stuff that's hard to set up and maintain, off the user's desktops and put it on the servers. But we've put too much into the web browser. This was fine, because we had to learn how HTTP works, and web browsers are excellent teachers of HTTP. But now that we know, it's time to bring HTTP into the desktop apps. Microsoft, we can show you how to do it.

Reference: Edit this Page, 5/24/99.

Read the part titled "Meet your new File menu!".

"We'll ask you to throw out your old word processor (Sorry!) just like you threw out HyperCard and Visual Basic and Director when the web came along. Why? Because its File menu is wrong. "Such a simple thing," you might say, "Why do I have to throw out my word processor?" Because it doesn't work on the web, I say. Writing for the web is different from writing for your printer. Your File menu thinks your world revolves around printing. There's the disconnect."

Read on from there. Re-architect. Put the bloated stuff on the server, make the workstation component light and fast and make the menus tie directly into services that are implemented thru open HTTP-based interfaces.

Office 2000 was a half-step to a dead-end. Web-enabling Office thru WebDAV only made it more complex and bizarre. What's needed is a complete re-think, as the web was a re-think for all that came before. The revolution is just starting in desktop apps, and Office 2000 is the czar just before the revolution.

We'll spend the next seven years exploring this new architecture, as we spent the last seven years exploring the architecture of HTML and HTTP. I'd bet my reputation as a technologist on this. Does Sun have a clue how to proceed? This may surprise some, but I think they might. But do they have the force of Microsoft to focus and deliver technology? Well, Microsoft ain't what it used to be. But there's a super-juicy idea in here. My little company can't do it all.

Why Microsoft?

Well I know they read my site. I don't know if any key technologists at Sun read Scripting News. If so, please get in touch. I'll adjust the message accordingly.

The plumbing fades away

The plumbing is XML-RPC. It falls into the background, higher-level APIs come. Benefits are delivered to users. Investors start caring about writers (they don't now). A few big IPOs later and we've got a new market. There's more juice here than Red Hat, Inktomi, Marimba and Vignette, combined.

There have been some great first steps. WebEx is on the right track. As is NetDocuments. The key idea is to loop around the web browser, put the browsing stuff in the browser, and use writing tools for the writing stuff.

That's it!

The evangelist is now out.

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