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Volume Number:12
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Internet Solutions

Becoming a Macintosh Service Provider

Tales from the field

By Brad Schrick and Eric Bickford

For several months MacTech has published articles explaining how to configure and program Internet WWW servers. Of course, Macintosh Web development isn’t just programming: there’s money to be made! Eric Bickford and Brad Schrick, two professional Macintosh WWW developers, report on market conditions. The forecast is sunny.

Eric Bickford

It began innocently enough. Put up a few web pages and see what happens. Seven months later the Mac Web Con-sultants Directory http://www.macweb.com/ had received listings from 440 consultants in 20 countries throughout the world (80% of those in the USA).

The Mac Web Consultants Directory was launched in April 1995 at WebEdge I, the Macintosh WWW Developers Conference. The idea behind the Directory was simple: Provide a searchable database of consultants who are experts in electronic publishing on the World Wide Web using Apple Macintosh and compatible computers.

Listing

To register, a consultant need only complete a free online application form. The application form asks for contact information and a short description of the services the consultant offers. This description becomes the consultant’s primary vehicle for attracting clients who search the Directory.

The application form also has a skills matrix for Services, Scripting Languages, Database Programs, and Web Tools. Any individual consultant might be skilled in CGI programming using AppleScript, C++, or Frontier. They might be skilled with a Macintosh database like 4th Dimension, Butler, or FileMaker Pro. Or, they are skilled in a specific web-related tool like AppleSearch or NetCloak.

Once a consultant creates a profile, they have the capability to update their profile at any time. Should a consultant be unavailable, for example, they’re encouraged to update their availability status to “Booked Solid”.

Searching

The Directory’s web-based search screen is very simple: Select the field you wish to search, such as “City”, and enter a search term. Results of a search are returned as a hitlist of records with consultant contact and profile information. Small icons on each consultant profile give an indication of the special skills that a consultant might offer.

The individual consultant must sell himself. Each listing in the Directory should have a URL pointing to the consultant’s home page. The quality of a consultant’s home page is often the primary selling point for acquiring new projects.

It Actually Works

Large and small companies and organizations use the Directory to find experts to help them build mission-critical, industrial-strength solutions on the WWW. It’s rewarding when you plan and build something like this Directory and it actually works. Again and again I find I’m talking to or reading email from someone in the directory who mentions getting a project or referral from it.

The Directory, however, isn’t without some problems. Because listing as a consultant is free, some people have listed themselves who arguably should not be in the Directory. For example, a quick search of the Directory finds that not all consultants have a home page URL. Likewise, an even 10% of all consultants listed have an email address with an .edu university top-level domain.

Brad Schrick

In mid-1993 Chuck Shotton wrote MacHTTP, and showed that a Macintosh could be a competent server on the World Wide Web. By late 1994 there was a lively group of commercial, educational, and personal Mac OS WWW servers using MacHTTP on the Web.

Show me

However, despite these many examples and an active discussion list, even Macintosh advocates often believed that UNIX was required to serve pages on the WWW. Instead of arguing endlessly, Brad Schrick, a MacHTTP advocate and customer, decided to try to list the servers that use Mac OS to deliver World Wide Web services.

The list debuted in October 1994

The first listings were easy to choose, starting with Chuck’s site on his IIci at the University of Houston (now www.biap.com), Apple’s front door, tended by Dale Mead at www.apple.com on a Mac IIfx, Stephen Collins’s Web66 ‘WWW cookbook’ at web66.coled.umn.edu (with several other Mac WWW sites), Jon Wiederspan’s CGI tutorial (http:// www.uwtc.washington.edu/computing/www/lessons/) at the University of Washington, and about 50 others.

Over the past year, the lists were automated to allow Mac webmasters to enter and change their own listings, and the lists were grouped by new listings, geography, equipment, and software in a continuing process to help Mac webmasters evaluate techniques and markets for their work.

The Mac WWW Server lists at http://brad.net/macwww/ currently hold about 1100 listings for about 900 to 1000 distinct Mac servers from around the world, and are growing at a pace of one to two hundred per month. About 900 listings are currently searchable. Some other Internet experiments and surveys indicate that as many as 5000 Mac OS WWW servers may be publicly available on the Internet. If automated techniques being developed here for listing them work, the number of servers in the listings will grow dramatically before New Year’s Day 1996.

The STAR Site

In an attempt to help focus attention on some of the best sites, a STAR site was established to feature a Mac OS site every few days, and this is the second most popular page at the site. The New Servers listings page is the most popular so far.

List your Mac WWW sites, public and internal!

If you’re considering establishing a Mac OS WWW site, take some time with these listings. If you have at least one Mac OS WWW server, list it! We ask that those who have internal WWW servers, but who still wish to participate in the Mac WWW Server community, list their URL as “internal site,” so that NetScape will report “...cannot connect to server... internal site...” In this way all Mac webmasters who wish to can show what they are doing with the technology, and meet and work with others who are attempting similar efforts, whether public or private.

 
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