Dave Winer

From Academic Kids

Dave Winer (b. May 2, 1955 in Brooklyn, New York City) is a software pioneer, creating some of the first outliners, content management systems, and weblog tools. He's also the author of Scripting News, one of the first weblogs.


In 1979, after graduating with an MS from the University of Wisconsin, Dave Winer became the lead developer for Personal Software. In 1981 he left to found Living Videotext, which created the first outliners: ThinkTank, Ready and MORE.

In 1987 Winer sold the company to Symantec and used the profits to purchase a large home in Woodside, California (next to Joan Baez) and founded UserLand Software. In 1992 UserLand developed Frontier, a scripting language for the Macintosh which they initially gave away for free. After Apple destroyed most of Frontier's market by bundling their own scripting language, AppleScript, with new systems, UserLand ported Frontier to Windows and began charging for it. The Frontier kernel was made open source under the GPL on September 28, 2004.

During the Web boom of the 1990s, Frontier became the technology behind Manila, a content management system that allowed the hosting of web sites and their editing through a browser. UserLand ran a free Manila hosting service, EditThisPage.com, which quickly began being used mostly to run weblogs, which Winer helped popularize. UserLand also ran one of the first Web aggregators, My.UserLand.Com, which allowed users to follow numerous weblogs from a single web page using a Netscape-created format called RSS. Winer also developed the protocol XML-RPC which was adapted to create SOAP.

In 2001 UserLand combined My.UserLand.Com's aggregator and Manila's blogging functions to create Radio UserLand, a lower-cost client-side tool that let blogs be uploaded to UserLand's servers as part of the annual software license fee.

In June 2002 Winer had coronary artery bypass surgery to prevent a heart attack. Afterwards, he quit smoking and left his job as CEO of UserLand, although he maintained ownership in the firm. He then spent a year as a resident fellow at the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society where he worked on using weblogs in education. While there, he launched the Harvard Weblogs community using UserLand software, and held the first and second BloggerCon conferences. Winer's fellowship ended in June 2004.

Winer's detractors allege that he is overly blunt and thin-skinned. Indeed, much of his later career successes are colored by a trail of former friends and collaborators who have found his often unpredictable behavior impossible to work with. Combined with a tendency to be personally abusive or insulting when discussing technical issues about which he has a strong opinion, Winer has at times alienated even those who respect his accomplishments. He is frequently subjected to parody and mockery through websites such as WinerLog and Eye on Winer (http://eyeonwiner.blogspot.com/).

His admirers, however, see him as a leader of clarity and purpose. One of the attendees at BloggerCon II, State Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, said "Winer is a constructive and innovative force in many overlapping worlds: blogging, journalism, software development, politics, business, and academia, among others. Without his intellectual and personal leadership, the Internet would look very different and have much less impact today." Most people who know Winer started laughing with the word "constructive".

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