Though it’s not exactly in the habit of starting small, Microsoft Corp has launched its new portal site Start (http://www.start.com) onto the internet with minimal fanfare. The company says it hopes to evolve the service over time. Start unites various Microsoft internet-content properties, including its Hotmail free email service, MSNBC and a link to the […]
Though it’s not exactly in the habit of starting small, Microsoft Corp has launched its new portal site Start (http://www.start.com) onto the internet with minimal fanfare. The company says it hopes to evolve the service over time. Start unites various Microsoft internet-content properties, including its Hotmail free email service, MSNBC and a link to the search engine and directory Excite. Ominously for Start’s rivals, notably Netscape NetCenter, Excite and Yahoo, Start product manager Ed Graczyk told CMPNet that a portal is to the internet as the Windows desktop is to your PC. Continuing in this vein, Microsoft told PC Expo attendees in New York that its Windows NT 4.0 Server is now the leading platform for web applications according to Zona Research. Microsoft claims that in excess of 250,000 developers are using its Active Server Pages (ASP) and more than 250 packages are available for NT as a web application server. What’s more, NT running Microsoft’s Internet Information Server accounts for 42% of the web application server market, with Netscape’s rival product boasting 15%, and IBM’s 9%. Well, maybe. The Zona Research document defines a web application server as providing unique processing between backend data or legacy applications and browser-based users on the front end. A little vague perhaps? CMP’s Tech encyclopedia provides two definitions for a plain application server: the middle tier of a three-tier client/server network, and a file server such as you’d put on a local area network. Only the first technically applies to the web, so that 42% market share is not 42% of all web sites, but 42% of the subset of web sites that actually goes to the trouble of separating their business logic out onto a different server. If you define your terms closely enough, NT wins. It’s a bit like a prize for the dog with the waggiest tail. The point is that by calling NT the leading platform for web applications, Microsoft appears to want you to think that the NT/IIS combination is the leading platform for applications on the web. Not so. For a relative latecomer to internet space, NT/IIS has done an extremely good job of catching up (not least by forcing out competitors such as O’Reilly & Associates web site). However the free Apache web server is still by far the most popular web platform, supporting hugely popular applications such as Geocities, Linux.org and – embarrassingly enough – Microsoft’s own Hotmail. According to the most recent figures from Netcraft, which conducts its automated polls every month, Apache and its derivatives now run more than half the sites on the web. Even Microsoft publishes its Dutch and South African country sites on Apache. What’s more, those sites are presumably also running Unix, since Apache only added NT support earlier this week (CI No 3,431). Even now that support remains experimental.