WebEdge: A travel log

WebEdge, the first Macintosh WWW Developer's Conference was held at Apple Computer Assistance Center, Austin, TX April 2-4, 1995. This text is a travel log of my attendance at that conference.

Sunday, April 2

capitol
capitol
Jennifer
Jennifer

WebEdge, the first Macintosh WWW Developer's Conference was being held at Apple Computer in Austin, TX.

The first meeting was not until 5:30, so I hooked up with my cousin, Jennifer, for a tour of the town. We went to lunch at a nice place on Kerby Street that served very large pancakes. We then went to Lagoonos Glorias where I added some Colorado River water to my collection. We then went to the grand opening of the National Wildlife Research Center. It was nice to visit with family.

At the appointed time, buses picked us up at our hotels and took us to Apple's facility. There we formally registered, were given our official WebEdge tee shirts, and provided with the opportunity to get to know each other over an informal dinner. Everybody was congenial and excited about the conference.

Monday, April 3

Apple Computer
Apple Computer
Shotton
Shotton
diamonds
diamonds
hacking
hacking

The conference was brought to order by Carl de Cordova of Apple Computer . After number of announcements, Chuck Shotton (the author of MacHTTP) gave a short history of server.

In July of 1993 when gopher was the hot topic, Chuck began exploring the use of HTTP software and found it rather difficult. He got in touch with the folks from CERN about writing a Macintosh-based client. Instead, they encouraged him to write a server application. A short while later, "up from slim code" his first version of MacHTTP came online. It could only handle one open connection at a time, but it got better. By February of 1994, after Chuck had gone to a PowerPC developers conference, version 1.3 of MacHTTP made its debut. Not only was it PowerPC native but it was CGI aware as well. MacHTTP at this time also became shareware. In the very near future, in order to make MacHTTP more widely available, MacHTTP is going to be distributed and marketed by the folks at StarNine and renamed to WebStar while Chuck continues on its development.

The attendees were then divided into groups. I was a diamond, and we all went to our various meetings.

Henry Lach and Mark Wickens both of Everware demonstrated Butlerlink/Web. Butler SQL is a database application and has been billed as the "most accessible database." For instance, it comes with tools to access it with newtons, WebStar, and XCMDs. Butlerlink/Web is one of those access tools providing very simple input, searching, and output modules. The demos worked as advertised, but once created, files make with the Butlerlink/Web can only be edited by text editors and not the Butlerlink/Web itself.

Lewis P. Slothouber, Ph. D. of BIAP Systems, Inc. then described how First Virtual (FV) Bridge works . Written by Lewis, FV Bridge allows WebStar to process First Virtual requests where First Virtual will process credit card transaction for you as a producer of goods and services. Thus, WebStar can be used as an advertising or delivery mechanism using the FV payment system. The Bridge works where:

  1. Vender submits transaction
  2. FV accepts or denies
  3. FV sends email to confirm transaction
  4. Customer accepts, declines, or claims fraud
  5. Result is sent to vendor

The process has a number of advantages: FV deal with bank, FV deals with customer, works now, and secure. Its not perfect, for example: the vender bears risk if customer "steals" information, smallest sale is $0.31, 90 day payment delay, you can only sell "bits". FV Bridge uses the SGCP protocol, logs transactions, maintains lists of sold things, and computes summaries or formulas by input forms.

Chuck Shotton author of WebStar then explained that MacHTTP is going to be supported by StarNine and will be renamed WebStar. Starnine will provide support that Chuck couldn't provide including printed documentation and 90 of free technical support. WebStar will be more extensible than MacHTTP. It will be different in four ways:

  1. WebStar is now two applications: server and administrator - the administrator creates and supports the config file as well as administrates the server. Thus you can administrate the server even if you do not have direct access to it. This administrative client can create graphs illustrating the server's use.
  2. Internally WebStar will support the Macintosh Thread Manager allowing WebStar to process many more requests more quickly; WebStar will be able to swap it own processes internally.
  3. More AppleEvent support; everything is scriptable.
  4. Preprocessing and post processing HTTP and ACTIONS - Preprocessing allows the server to do some procedure before any information is sent to the client application. For example a URL can be captured before it is processed and acted upon. Similarly, postprocessing allows WebStar to be able to update a database application and/or generate a bill. ACTIONS allow you to create you own document type and processing appropriately which will mostly take the form of CGI scripts like Netcloak .

David Thompson , Director of Marketing at StarNine then described his company's marketing strategy concerning WebStar. He shared with the audience ideas about distribution methods like CD which may include HTML editors and CGI scripts as well as new products like FTP, mail, and listserv servers. He mentioned WebStar Pro which may include support of SSL (Secure Socket Library). He said, "A server on every Mac is the ultimate vision." The MacHTTP may remain, but only as a program that can be used to handle only a single connection at a time useful for things like vanity pages and demonstrations of the technology. He also mentioned that Chuck will continue to be developing WebStar and WebStar Pro.

Tuesday, April 4

Wiederspan
Wiederspan
Haeberli
Haeberli

CGI applications

Jon Wiederspan gave an outline of how to write CGI scripts. "The power of cgi scripting on the macintosh is especially advantageous since almost application is available via AppleEvents." There are two types of CGI scripts: CGI and ACGI. CGI scripts queue up AppleEvents and thus you have to look at our queue before you can quit. ACGI's are asynchronous and work along side the server application. Thus, the acgi scripts may get executes slower, but your server application can continue processing. Writing CGI (or ACGI) scripts is relatively easy using AppleScript since AppleScripts sets up all the AppleEventing for you. On the other hand, C or pascal program may run faster, but they require more programing overhead.

Commerce, Security & Open Transport

Martin Haeberli of Apple Computer shared with the audience Apple Computer's philosophy concerning its Open Transport and communications strategy. One change we may see in the future is the implementation of DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) reducing the need to configure things like you MacTCP control panel.

He then discussed his ideas about commerce on the Internet. He divided commerce into four levels ranging from nano- to macro-commerce. Nano-commerce deals with tiny transactions like $0.005. Macro-commerce deals with much larger transactions like the purchase of entire factories or businesses.

We are seeing a growing number of enterprising companies conducting business over the Internet. The biggest difficulty seems to be security on how to securely transfer credit-card numbers. A number of methods were demonstrated:

Security is a necessary part of the Internet, Haeberli said, if industry is to embrace it. It is needed for privacy, commercial secrets, and safety. Examples include RSA or Secure HTTP but there are no SSL (Secure Socket Library) clients available except Netscape.

Demonstrations

Johnson
Johnson
O' Fallon
O' Fallon

Bryan Johnson (Apple Support Group) demonstrated AppleWebSearch, a CGI gateway between WebStar and AppleSearch. Based on search technology licensed from Personal Librarian Software (PLS), AppleSearch indexes and searched files saved in folders. These indexes and files can then be made available through MacHTTP via AppleWebSearch. Presently, AppleWebSearch does not support the searching of remote WAIS indexes, but that should be make available sometime in the near future.

John O'Fallon of Maxum demonstrated Netcloak and Netforms. Netcloak is MacHTTP preprocessor. It can be used to enhance your HTML files with customization; it makes WebStar more extensible. For example by adding a few Netcloak-specific "tags" to your HTML you can display the number of time someone has read you pages. Alternatively, you can specify what the remote client sees based on their Internet name or IP address. Netcloak also has date, time, footer, and macro tags. Netforms allows your readers to create articles and view the articles online. This feature can be used to annotate a server's contents, a feature seemingly lost since the "early" days of HTTP servers.

Diner

Table #1
Table #1
Table #2
Table #2

Many people signed up to go to a nearby restaurant, Papadeux to discuss RAIC, but the group was too big and the wait in line was too long. We thank Everware for picking up the tab!

Wednesday, April 5

Cordova
Cordova
Hale
Hale
Levitus
Levitus

Panel Discussion

A panel consisting of Chuck Shotton, Martin Haeberli, Julie Gomoll of Gomedia, and Carl de Cordova discussed various topics concerning the WWW in general.

Julie used the analogy of old movies to describe the maturity of WWW where old movies were really play with a single camera angle. As motion pictures matured many cameras were employed as well as alternative angles. The WWW right now is just like these older movies where we are using a static description (HTML) to present information. We have yet to learn who to use these new technologies to their greatest extent. At the same time, we should not forget about printed media; the WWW is simply an alternative medium.

Along those same lines Martin mentioned the ideas of que bullets. These are tiny graphics embedded in HTML used to denote the type of links in the HTML. For example, a file icon may represent a file, a speaker may be a sound, a mail box may mean a mailto URL, or a globe may mean an external connection. Another idea is to create redundant servers to improve through put. The idea, also put forth by Jon Wiederspan, would be to have many machines be your server. One computer could serve only images, another would serve HTML, and a third would process CGI scripts. Using this model server administrators could use smaller, and less powerful machines that may be not being used for other purposes.

Chuck expressed an interest in having our client server model become a bit more intelligent. More specifically, he would like to send the client raw information and have the client application display it in a mode defined by the user. To paraphrase, "HTML is a static representation of the data, the data needs to be manipulatable at the client end."

Carl, as well as Chuck would like to see some intelligent agents created for the Net. These agents may systematically roam the Internet for information and create some sort of report. This report is then displayed on demand by the end user., create reporters for the Internet so it would check people pages everyday and create new pages everyday.

Closing Ceremonies

The Closing Ceremonies were presided over by Carl de Cordova. The folks from Gomedia were thanked for the Herculean efforts in making the conference a success.

WebEdge II was announced. It will be held August 21-23rd, 1995 at the Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX.

Next, the Hack Session awards were presented, the grand prize went to Mason Hale for his hack that simulated a golf game through the WWW. Other prizes were awarded for a hack that 'faxed your order to a restaurant. Another one, called "Is Eric Home?" took a picture and sent it to the remote machine.

The conference was brought to a close by Bob "Dr. Macintosh" LeVitus . Bob hawked a future book of his WebMaster Macintosh, spoke to the audience about why they represented the future of WWW publishing on the Macintosh, and shared his vision of the future of the WWW. In the short term, he sees more interesting contents to be generated on the WWW. In the short term, he sees more online services becoming WWW providers, and he sees faster connection times. In the medium term he sees more bandwidth and making richer content a possibility. He sees "URLs everywhere" and quite possibly in our operating systems, and he sees better publishing and authoring tools for the WWW. In the long term, he predicts everything will be connected just as the telephone connects everything today, and he expects competition to make prices more reasonable.

Summary

Like many others, I believe the conference was a success. Common sayings during the conference included:

  1. "I'll send you email."
  2. "Its on my home page."
  3. "The pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs."

One of the biggest things I learned at the conference is the infant role of commerce in the Internet. As a librarian, I am interested in providing as much information as possible to as many people as possible for the lowest possible cost. In many respects, this is contrary to industry who is interested in providing these same sorts of services but at the same time making as much money as possible. As a user of the Internet for more than 7 years, it makes me sad to think the concept of "giving back to the 'Net" is dying.

But all industry is not all bad. In fact, industry's main concern is trying to figure out how to use this new medium, the Internet, to provide the same sorts of goods and services industry provided in the past. Presently, you can go to the mall, browse, and purchase something at the register. The mall is the medium. Alternatively, you could shop 'till you drop using a catalog and your telephone. ("By the way, is your telephone line any more secure than your Internet connections?") The telephone is the medium. Industry is asking itself, "How do we use the Internet as a medium for goods and services."


Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: This text was never formally published.
Date created: 1995-04-02
Date updated: 2004-11-26
Subject(s): WebEdge; Austin, TX; travel log;
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/webedge/