Strange bedfellows

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From: Dave Winer (
Date: Fri Sep 29 2000 - 10:39:01 PDT

DaveNet essay, "Strange bedfellows", released on 9/29/2000; 10:02:52 AM

***ICE working group

I went to a meeting of the ICE working group on Tuesday. I'll have a full
report on Scripting News probably sometime next week. It was a good meeting.
A room full of people who understand content management and syndication.
After going in different directions in 1998, we now seem to be headed in the
same direction. I would have met with them earlier if the RSS community
hadn't been locked up, now I regret not meeting with them earlier.

I wrote about two models for syndication a year ago, one model based on
distributing content, the other based on distributing links. I bet on the
latter model, it follows the grain of the Web, and imho the other model
follows the form dictated by print. I also wanted to support what I call
"amateur journalism," more on that later.

I think there will be good forward motion with the ICE group, we agree on
the need for simplicity. A good group of people, powerful companies,
professional and respectful and open to new ways of thinking. There was even
some humor! Right on.

***SOAP rules

In the last week I've seen three new companies with interesting products
that are basing their future on SOAP. It's really happening. In the hype
over P2P, this may be being overlooked.

XML is getting mature, and the killer app for XML, clearly, is SOAP. Some
have said that SOAP is just a formalization for CGIs. That's very true. The
key word is formalization.

Everywhere you see a screen-scraping application, there's a SOAP app waiting
to be developed. How to monetize it when there are no ads? Charge for the

We can build a more useful Internet if we focus on building systems that
cross all kinds of boundaries with ease.

At the same time, let me express my love for XML-RPC; SOAP's lightweight
older brother, a Model-T of distributed computing. Yesterday I heard about a
new JavaScript system that does its object serialization with XML-RPC. At a
conference earlier this year, the CEO of a $70 million technology company
hugged me. Their software system is based on XML-RPC and they like it. David
Galbraith, chief architect at Moreover.Com, says it's magic, it's so simple.
I've had the same experience, many times.

I can't tell you how satisfying it is, after many years of struggling with
Apple over this technology, to see it take root in the market. Whether or
not UserLand profits from it is not as important as the compatibility that's
happening. Systems that expose interfaces through SOAP or XML-RPC offer more
chances for compatibility, and partnerships that actually mean something for
users and investors.

Looking back, the turning point for SOAP was IBM's implementation for Java.
Lots of people use Java, and apparently there were serious limitations in
RMI that SOAP doesn't have.

Looking back even further, credit Microsoft, for having the guts to get
behind the idea. To this day most of the gorillas of the software industry
only want to work with each other. They're doing it the hard way. When
gorillas team up with independent developers, sparks can fly.

People with big company attitudes complain about guys like me, but instead
of complaining, Microsoft embraced. As they say in Apache-Land, "It worked!"

***Halsey Minor

Yesterday I met Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET, for the first time. It's
surprising to me that if each of us sticks to our plans, we're going to be
in the same market someday, in a compatible way.

I always think that disconnects are permanent. I have to remember to relax
about that. The ICE meeting on Tuesday was more proof. If people keep their
minds active and learn from all their experiences, me too, we eventually
arrive at the right place, even if there are detours along the way.

Halsey sent me a followup email, "I feel like I just travelled back to 1995
when this 'industry' was more fun!" Right on. I feel the same way. I sent
him a pointer to Radio UserLand. We're going to meet again in a few weeks.

BTW, this is one of those times that I can't tell you what's up. It's
happening more and more. For example, when we were working with Microsoft on
SOAP, I said publicly that we were working with Microsoft, but I didn't say
what we were working on.

I have to respect their processes, and I'm also learning to do more of that
with my own work. It would be great if everyone could always be open about
what they're doing, but there's an imbalance if your competitors don't do

***Strange bedfellows

Earlier this week I was asked to write a piece for Fortune explaining, from
my point of view, what's going on in the technology industry in Y2K. (I
spoke the piece into a voice recorder, for a half hour, they're going to
edit it for a special feature where a few other people from Silicon Valley
do the same thing.)

I explained that the Internet is not what the dot-commers said it was.
Strategies that gather people behind specific domains and put ads on their
writing is not what the Internet is about. The ads don't generate enough
value to justify the market caps for all the companies that IPO'd in the
last few years. It had to collapse.

Now where will the technology industry go? It's so obvious, back to
technology. Who cares what we have to say? That's not our job. Our job is to
supply technology. Did word processor vendors have a stake in what was said
with their tools? Our systems have to work, the users come first, and we'll
ask them to pay. If they do, we can have a technology industry. If not,
we'll have to try something else.

Anyway, it occurred to me that now that the blush is off the rose, now the
east coast business pubs are going to tear Silicon Valley a new orifice. We
deserve it. However, we will have the last laugh. Highly produced and
sanitized content is what they're good at. Delivering the truth is what the
Internet is good at. Once we get over our latest attempt to centralize it,
we'll be back on course, supporting the route-around that will create a new
competitive environment for delivery of news, information, opinion and art.


I have been mystified about the business model for CollabNet, but a few days
ago I think I figured it out.

To understand what's going on, look at IBM and SOAP as a case study. With a
relatively small investment in engineering resources, at the right moment,
IBM was able to lock in SOAP 1.1 as a standard, which gives the distributed
computing market a chance to grow right now.

As I understand it, they just had two engineers working skunkwork-style, in
suburban NYC, for a few months. Then they backed the work, and did something
a bit surprising, they contributed it to the Apache project, as open source.

In that, is the value in CollabNet. They are organizing the work of dozens
of open source developers as employees, and then doing contract work for big
companies like IBM. This could easily be a profitable business. And it gives
the big companies a way to efficiently turn dollars into strategies. No one
will begrudge CollabNet their profit.

Dave Winer

PS: ICE is an acronym for Information Content Exchange.

(c) Copyright 1994-2000, Dave Winer.
"It's even worse than it appears."

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