A Brief History of Postmaster

Note To Self: The post below is a bit long, but you really hope that visitors will read it anyway instead of just skimming over it, looking for the funny parts because there aren’t any, really.


After some excellent initial feedback about yesterday’s post (where you asked what kind of Postmaster people want), you realize that there are many new visitors who haven’t been here since day-one and have no clue what you’re talking about.

This has been evidenced by several visitor-emails which read huh? and another which suggested that Postmaster is only now being mentioned in response to Dean Allen’s forthcoming Textpattern. The sender of the email seemed angry about it, and told you to stop wasting your time, to get lost, to just quit.

Never fear, you won’t be quitting. You can’t. You’ve seen Rocky too many times.

Interestingly, the email does bring up a good point concerning competition, something that should be mentioned here. You see, although you’re trying to make Postmaster the best it can be, you’re not making it to compete with (or oust) the other weblog systems out there. Why would you want to?

Rather, Postmaster is a labor of love, a tool you’ve been building and using for the last three years, and something that you’d like to share with the world. This was always your intent.

More importantly is the fact that you’re on your own now, an independent software developer, you wouldn’t mind making a few bucks here and there, to be used for things like your mortgage, buying food, or paying the electric bill. Perhaps this insane lust for cash is what’s driving you to create a wonderful product that people would like so much they’d want to pay for it.

So Then, The History Part

Rather than suggest your visitors re-read each and every post since 2000, you shall provide, a brief summary on the history of Postmaster.

Postmaster began as a ColdFusion application in mid-2000. A simple application created to help you manage the updating of your (long dead) weblog Dan’s Daily News, a frequently-updated news-site with white text on a black background. Long dead, remember?

Back then, Postmaster was a nameless weblog tool, really just a few forms and a MySQL database. Like many of the weblog systems in use today it required that you host both your weblog and the weblog-application on the same server. This meant your webhost needed to support ColdFusion and MySQL. Which meant you’d have to pay more for hosting.

Worse, this meant that, should something go wrong on the webhost (a MySQL problem for example), your weblog would die too. This is still the case with other publishing systems because every page is fed and created, live, from the database. You wanted static, not dynamic pages. The more minimal webhost requirements the better.

You wanted the webhost to be separate from the weblog-system, which would publish the pages via FTP to anywhere on the Internet. This would give you autonomy from any specific technology or webhost. You could publish any type of page you wanted (.html, .php, .asp, etc.) for hosting anywhere you wanted. This would let you save money and buy the cheapest hosting package you could find, so long as you had a machine somewhere (under your desk, even) that could run ColdFusion and MySQL.

Blogger, Ignored

It turns out, there was already a system out there doing just this, called Blogger. You’d never heard of Blogger (or Movable Type, or any of the others). You’d done no research, just started hacking out a system of your own, to handle the tasks you needed done. You quickly switched from ColdFusion which was expensive to PHP, which was (and is) just about everywhere, on every platform, and costs nothing. You stuck with MySQL but made sure your SQL was ANSII so the whole system would work easily on any database-platform.

In this way, the first Postmaster was born. In fact, this second system, the first real Postmaster, is the same system you use today. The very same one you’re typing in now. You mentioned it frequently here on Hivelogic.

What about v2?

Postmaster v2 came along quickly. There were lots of new features you’d decided to add. By now you’d seen and used Blogger quite a bit, experienced the pain of using it, and abandoned it to continue with Postmaster.

Building on Java’s ability to create cross-platform desktop, server-side, and web applications, you set out to create Postmaster as a fast, portable, easy-to-use system. You would go on to write version 2 from scratch in Java, making it independent of any platform or database technology. You’d keep everything that was good about the older version, add anything good you found in other weblog systems, and punch-in a bunch of new stuff you’d thought of and hadn’t seen anywhere else.

And then, in mid-2002, it was done.

Hi There — It’s Been Nice Knowing You!

Just as quickly, you realized that hosting the Java version of Postmaster was not to be. Unlike the corporate world which was waiting for the things Java offered and embraced it head-on, the hosting world was lagging behind. Even today, it’s just about impossible to find a reputable hosting company that offers true J2EE hosting. Most don’t and won’t. Not when there’s PHP and .NET around.

So you continue to use the older, less capable PHP version. It does the job. But in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking about the other version that almost was, the one with all the cool bells and whistles. All that great code, just sitting there.

Version 3?

So, where are you now? You’ve got something wonderful written in Java. This could be packaged up and turned into a native Mac OS X application and soon after a Windows application with a built-in database that users wouldn’t even know about. Publish weblogs from your desktop to any server on the Internet.

Or … you could migrate version 2 back into a PHP application, and release a web-based application, easily hosted anywhere, even on a user’s local PC or existing webhost. Publish weblogs from your webhost to any server on the Internet.


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