Happy Birthday to Dave Winer!

A Decade Since AutoWeb…

Dave Winer is often referred to as the godfather of blogging, the inventor of RSS, and so on. Dave has probably forgotten about more great software he’s written than other programmers have written.

So on his 50th birthday, I would like to say thanks to Dave for AutoWeb, which the docs of the day referred to as the newsroom system for the worldwide web. AutoWeb was a Frontier suite which came out in early 1995, when Dave was just hitting 40. I used the tool for almost three years to build the Newsbytes Pacifica website for the late, great Newsbytes News Network.

AutoWeb was a godsend for the someone with limited programming experience looking to create and manage regularly updated websites. It allowed you to drop text files into a folder, then run a script which would process the test files into HTML, integrate those files with content already stored in Frontier’s database, process any macros contained in the database, and regenerate your website complete with Next and Previous links linking the pages.

AutoWeb featured pseudo-category support with “Surface Links” and “Dive Links” and integrated with the Anarchie FTP software which would automatically upload files for you once your site had been regenerated. To show you where we were in early 1995, Dave wrote this about the FTP upload feature: Go have a cup of coffee if you (like me!) have a 14.4 slip connection and a big website. A slip connection, when was the last time you heard any one say that.

I’d never been a programmer, but I learned a lot about scripting from AutoWeb. Frontier was the first programming language I tried to learn. While Perl might be the duct tape of the Internet, Frontier was definitely the duct tape for your Macintosh, allowing you to send email messages from Eudora into your Autoweb site, or integrate your FileMaker database with Netscape and so on. It was great fun learning how to read in a file on your Mac and send its contents into a Filemaker database, or how to get Netscape to save a series of URLs to disk for later offline browsing.

A very belated thank you for AutoWeb, Dave. It helped me build websites, inspired me to learn about scripting languages, and I’m still digging a decade later with the hosted blogging service I founded.

Happy 50th Birthday, Dave!