Microsoft FrontPage 2003: Savvy

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Our mission with FrontPage has remained the same, and if anything has become even more so as part of Microsoft: web authoring for everyone. Microsoft has Internet Studio and other products for advanced web development, but if you are a non-technical professional charged with creating or updating Internet or intranet web content, FrontPage was designed for you. We hope you will find it productive, instructive, and enjoyable. Charles Ferguson, the founder of startup Vermeer wrote and interesting book about his experience with founding the company getting traction and selling it to Microsoft.

See Amazon. Ferguson Books. That was actually the beginning of the crazy "Dot. Here is one telling quote:. They were not real sharks. The real sharks here were the investment banks and venture funds. And this period was the first when regulations adopted during Great Deal were substantially weaken and agencies that were formally responsible for control on financial oligarchy behavior were weakened and emasculated.

Fed was in the hands of shameless opportunist Greenspan who under the pretext of free market and deregulation was selling the country to financial oligarchy. For the latter dot-com boom was a perfect opportunity to redistribute country wealth in their own favor.

The Question

Greed is good was the slogan of the day. This wealth redistribution mechanism worked via numerous venture and hedge funds that were created to attract money and extract rent for the casino owners which were investment banks. With skillful propaganda, money were just flowing like water into all sorts of "Internet funds" as well as the small and mostly unprofitable Internet start-ups.

Before that fund, the group had made fewer than three dozen investments in the technology and communications sectors from to mid, according to Goldman Sachs documents about the fund. The group, which manages the money of pensions, sovereign wealth funds and other prominent clients, declined the opportunity to invest in Facebook early this year. Philip A. Cooper, who in was head of a separate Goldman Sachs group that managed fund of funds and other investments, recalled that investors were clamoring, "We want more tech, we want more.

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Cooper, who has since left Goldman. Less than two years later, it ceased operations. An online grocer, Webvan, was one of the most highly anticipated I. Less than two years later, Webvan was bankrupt. About the same time, Internet-centric mutual funds burst onto the scene. From just a handful in early , there were more than 40 by the following year. About one year later, the fund, with returns down about 70 percent, was closed and folded into another fund. Meeks started six tech funds for Merrill Lynch from to Development continued without Charles Ferguson, the co-founder of Vermeer Microsoft refused to hire him but otherwise preserved the whole development team.

Randy Forgaart also left soon, so the major role was played by Andy Schulert. Bundled on CD with the NT 4. It was released as freeware. The first really successful commercial version, I think, was Frontpage which was followed by two blockbusters: Frontpage and Frontpage The main development of FrontPage happened during the short seven year period: from to During this period Microsoft significantly enhanced the product and it is fair to say that Frontpage is a completely Microsoft product belonging to the Office line, as little of the initial design was unchanged.

Randy Forgaard the second co-founder of Vermeer and, especially, Andrew Schulert on the photo above with Bill Gates were the technical minds behind FrontPage. Randy Forgaad left Microsoft pretty soon and for the next four years till Andrew Schulert, who became general manager of the FrontPage product unit, drove FrontPage development until , making singificant improvement of the product.

The last release of "classic" Frontpage was FrontPage , the best version of Frontpage in existence, more polished but not that different from Frontpage It consisted, so to speak, of "level two" people, who did not possess any significant architectural vision and that lack of vision clearly influenced the product subsequent releases and led to a complete abandoning of the product in They were avbailble for Apache too. Frontpage extensions needed to be installed on the target web server for its content and publishing features to work.

But you can also create sites with Frontpage that does not use Frontpage extensions. There is nothing in Frontpage which bind you to this technology. It contained built-in FTP client to load changed pages to the site "publish" in Frontpage lingo , but custom script were much better for this purpose.

Rsync also can be used. A version for Mac OS was released in ; however, it had fewer features than the Windows product and Microsoft has never updated it. And in many respects it is qualitatively better then competition like Macromedia Dreamweaver development of which by-and-large parallel development of Frontpage; version 1. The same semi-debugged and idiosyncratic regular expression engine.

Again, those suckers were even unable to change definitely broken regex engine ;-. One problem with FrontPage was fixed in Expression Web -- the inability to apply styles from the attached stylesheets. The proliferation of rich interactive web applications across the cloud and mobile devices continues to create new opportunities for creative design and development. As these technologies evolve, Microsoft is committed to providing best-in-class tools for building modern applications.

In support of these industry trends Microsoft is consolidating our lead design and development offerings — Expression and Visual Studio — to offer all of our customers a unified solution that brings together the best of Web and modern development patterns. Actually for any OS in existence. No other free editor even comes close. Here is some info from Wikipedia:. It is a part of Microsoft SharePoint family of products.

For instance, it only includes SharePoint-specific site templates. It retains more FrontPage features than Expression Web , such as web components, database, marquee, hit counter, navigation bars, map insert, etc. The whole product smells with outsourcing I was a heavy user of FrontPage almost from its first release by Microsoft and heard about the book several times, but read the book only now.

This is a good book, but it essentially consists of two books in one: one is about business culture of Internet start-ups and venture capital in early th and the second is about technology as it was understood by the author in late 90th. It also colored by really unpleasant, arrogant and confrontational personality of the author. Only the first on those two books has lasting value.

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I have found insights about Internet startups environment fascinating although behavior of the author at times was really questionable despite his attempt to present himself in a favorable light. The author adopts Machiavellian approach "no prisoners" and is ready play dirty he described patent trolling that his startup was engaged is in gory details. He also tried to create a lock-in for the product with so called FrontPage extensions.

His descriptions of other players such as Netscape and Microsoft are quite paranoid but he conveys the cut-throat atmosphere of Internet startups in mid th quite accurately. Here is a very telling quote:. I told him we'd utterly destroy him if he breathed a word about us. I warned him that if he even told Netscape of our existence that he'd be violating our nondisclosure agreement.

Furthermore, I said, if Netscape announce similar products, we'll go after you and them for a few billion dollars. Their position will be that they didn't know that you were betraying us, and they'll probably let you twist in the wind. Your depositions and court appearances will take years and your legal bills will bankrupt you, We'll have private detectives going over every phone call you've ever made, every e-mail you've ever send, every dream you've ever had, every lie you've ever told.

Netscape will fire you and you'll never work in this industry gain. If you need a demonstration that I can be a complete bastard let me know and I would be happy to provide it. Do you get it. He did; I scared the hell out of him, which was just fine. Super-sized egos and arrogance are helpful in get financing and starting the business but are bad in running the company, especially with hired CEO.

That's actually classic Greek tragedy theme: qualities which initially helped the hero to get to the top eventually lead to his demise. The author self-characterization "I was extremely tense, angry, and frequently unpleasant, but I'm not stupid" p. The guy really has had huge personality problems. Was he a sociopath or borderline personality in unclear. The other reviews address this point more in-depth see Jane Smith's review from December To produce a solid HTML editor in 20 months is not something incredible, but as staff was distracted by countless presentations as well as political maneuvering and infighting, it's still impressive.

Role of Ferguson is unclear from the book and there may be none. Despite many true and insightful observations, the author technology views as well as bits of Internet history scatted in the book and related deliberations very frequently generated in me some kind of protest: either because they look to me questionable from historical point of view or from technological point of view or both.

The author never have been a programmer. He does has BS in mathematics but that's about it. So all his apt observations about "Nontechnical professional CEO problem" p. Sometimes he is completely off the mark like his lament that Netscape did not port its webserver to Netware as well as his remark "None of its Webservers ever run on Windows 3. The first would be waste of money and time, the second would be waste of time and money All-in-all I do not trust his analysis of Netscape demise in Chapter 9 although he makes many good, valid points.

So in comparison with Netscape Vermeer was tiny, obscure, peripheral Internet startup and the fact that Microsoft spend millions on it is really surprising. It was just one day moth. All the major history of FrontPage was written after Vermeer acquisition by Microsoft and truth be told Microsoft did a very good job of developing the product. All-in-all this is a book written by a very sharp businessman who managed to assemble a good team and launch a startup that produced pretty good Windows-based HTML editor. Getting from Microsoft millions for HTML editor that was just one year in development and which Microsoft can replicate in probably less then a year at half-cost, the product which at the time of acquisition sold less then copies, was an impressive business achievement.

Technologically it was all dull work with no new or existing components despite author claims. It was essentially a purely commercial project and I understand reluctance of venture capital guys to finance it. I would not if I were in their place. It was pretty risky business plan even in the crazy atmosphere of the growing dot-com boom. So that fact that the author executed business portion of the strategy pretty successfully and managed to milk acquisition for so much money is really amazing.

As far as I remember the first version sold by Microsoft it was a good, solid editor but was far from "breakthrough" and has "provincial" Windows-centric architecture no support of regular expressions, no macro language or some external API for editor. It was acceptable but it was clearly inferior in quality to Offic products in both interface and in the absence of the macro language.

Actually Microsoft greatly improved it in subsequent versions up to FrontPage , but the fact that it was initially developed outside of Office team remained a handicap. In this sense I have a feeling that Microsoft decided to buy Vermeer instead of producing equal of better HTML editor in a year or so only because it needed HTML editor quickly and did not want to wait six month or so. May be that was one of the first signs of Microsoft decline ;-. I also disagree with the author assessment of the speed in Internet penetration.

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Many ISPs provided shell accounts in early which could be used to browse Web. Generally in it was clear for many people that Internet and World Wide Web will have tremendous importance. Double standard mentality typical for sociopathic personalities is also visible in some episodes for example in getting a cash severance payment for himself.

I think the author was tremendously lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and his venture was not that different from many other "one day", "make money fast" ventures of dot-com era. It was not the most useless either. The part about raising capital is excellent actually, I remembered reading a very similar article in Fast Company a year or two ago. There's also a certain double standard mentality: the author accuses the CEO of trying to negotiate an unfairly good personal deal, yet later in the book demands a cash severance payment for himself; talks about how immoral the CEO was for suggesting sending engineers to competitors to interview hoping to learn about their technologies, yet later in the book admits that obtaining Microsoft's beta code through 'a friend' was Ok under the circumstances.

Yes, Charles is brilliant, arrogant and is lightening-fast in seeing the failings of others and himself and is willing to take ownership of them rectifying the situation and doing something about it is another story completely However, he also has a massive inferiority-complex when up against anyone with more brains more money, more privilege or more power than himself hence his complete disdain for anything Microsoft-related never mind that it was the hand that fed him and he continues to bite it.

He also fails to see that you can attract a lot more bees with honey instead of vinegar. It's not a coincidence that everyone from Vermeer, except Charles eventually landed a job at Microsoft, I suspect Gates was smart enough to see just how insanely jealous Charles must be of him. As for his acidic portrayal of many of the players in the book, I'm fairly sure Charles really reserves his most toxic rage and disdain for those persons who display.

Gates also has a quality and understanding that Charles doesn't: that life isn't just about accumulating stuff, but about the quality and integrity of the relationships around you. Gates is no innocent either but at least I've never heard any stories about him running around on his wife and kids and the people he surrounds himself with have been with him for years. Charles, on the other hand goes through people like toilet paper , he even admits that he's so impossible that people either dislike him right away or shortly thereafter - as exemplified in this book.

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I've actually dated him and yes, his character does come out in his writing very strongly. So yes, he is a real jerk, and can be an even larger jerk especially when you've outsmarted him in any slight way. That being said, he also has a very warm, human, giving and honest side which for some unknown reason he hoards jealously and glimpses of it come out here and there in the book , which is why in the book he skewers just about everyone and their dog.

It's really too bad - with a talent and intelligence like that, he could have gotten a lot more for Vermeer, a lot more for himself and he'd be a happier human being instead of a ish, balding, lonely, bitter software millionaire in a Mazda Miata. OK, If I could I'd give it 4. But basically, the book has a lot of great info, especially for geeks who work in the software business. There are very few books on the business side of things. The author is incredibly blunt.

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Perhaps a bit nasty. But it is clear that he had to do it so that he didn't get fleeced. Also, it is great to see someone with a backbone. The step-by-step evolution of stuff is great. You really get a feel for what happened, when it happened. Keith Dawson : A must-read for anyone with an Internet business plan , December 7, Read the jacket copy of most any tell-all business book and you'll see the publisher claim that the author pulls no punches.

Charles Ferguson is the real deal. You've probably never read a book that so plainly lays out the author's opinions, feelings, failures, and triumphs while recounting a company's history. Microsoft FrontPage is now used by 3 million people around the world. The eight chapters in which Ferguson describes the 22 months of Vermeer's independent existence are riveting reading for anyone who lived through the birth of the commercial Internet.

Ferguson gives his startlingly frank opinions on everyone involved: Vermeer's venture capitalists, the near-disaster of a CEO they hired, the Netscape and Microsoft players with whom Ferguson negotiated for Vermeer's purchase. He's a hard grader and as tough on himself as on others. I think that none of the things he says quite rises to the level of the libelous; but some of them will make you wonder.

Everyone with an Internet business plan should read this first-time entrepreneur's look back, especially for its eye-opening account of his dealings with venture capitalists. Read it before you get your money. The book will probably depress you; but Ferguson's hard-won lessons might just possibly save your bacon.

I found the early part of the book somewhat confusing because Ferguson talks about the business and venture-capital climate in Silicon Valley. Vermeer was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts and its first investors were easterners. I assume the publisher chose to downplay this geographical undesirability in order to bask in the magic glow of the words ''Silicon Valley. I'll also give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the publisher's choice to replace an ''a'' on the cover with an '' '' -- lest the reader fail to apprehend that this is an Internet book.

Ferguson, in concert with his early employees, saw very clearly the way the Internet and the competitive environment would grow. Of course he could be padding with hindsight the nature of his early strategic insight; but he ended up convincing me otherwise. For this reason I plowed through the book's final three chapters, in which he imparts his views the self-immolation of Netscape, the Microsoft problem, and the in his opinion vastly more worrisome problem of the incumbent telecomm companies. In my mind he had earned the right to have his opinions attended to.

I asked a former colleague who was close to the events at Vermeer to comment on the accuracy of the historical picture Ferguson paints. The reply:. I don't agree with everything he says, but I know he believes everything he says, and says everything he believes. He doesn't pull any punches. Charles Ferguson is smart. Charles Ferguson knows he's smart.

But Charles Ferguson thinks he's smarter and more important than he really is, and this makes this otherwise interesting book sometimes painful to read. The chapters covering the formation through eventual acquisition of Vermeer Technologies are an interesting education in the ways of VCs and hi-tech startups in the mid 90's.

However, the last three chapters of the book are pretty worthless. These contain Ferguson's analysis of the industry and predictions for the future, and suffer because of Ferguson's worldview that he and Vermeer were far more important to the industry than they actually were. Ferguson lacks an understanding of large IT operations, and it's unfortunately evident in these chapters. Ferguson's pronounced hostility towards certain actors in his book - including former subordinates - also makes for uncomfortable reading.

Some things should simply be kept private. Buy the book if you want to learn about VCs and hi-tech startups early in the Internet era, and don't mind wading through Ferguson's ego eruptions. Otherwise, skip it. Ferguson's book is the only narration I have so far encountered including Mr. Randall E. Stross' EBOYS that may actually represent what goes on in the entrepreneur world, and it does so in a straightforward tone with a whole lot of humor- and some cynicism- thrown in, making the book an enjoyable read.

What's amazing about this book is its age: although the book is from , much of what Mr. Ferguson concludes about where the industry is headed has come true or is slowly being recognized by the mainstream line of thought this is quite an accomplishment in case you do not understand the rarity of such occurrences. Ferguson actually understands the technology and business underlining his startup as well, and he isn't afraid to admit when his comprehension falls short.

Ask any engineer- this personality attribute in leaders of the entrepreneur world is becoming increasingly uncommon, unfortunately. If you're looking for a book that is written by someone who has been there and has also stood the test of time in terms of holding its conclusions intact, this is it for the late 90s era. If you're looking for a book by an outsider who doesn't seem to understand what's really going on and that romanticizes Silicon Valley or Route , look for something else. I especially recommend this book to anyone who is frustrated with the herd mentality in the tech world and would like to read something that has a refreshing independence to its views.

Actually, on second thought, if you're looking for a book that humorously shoots itself in the foot with its free-wheeling conjectures and hasty exclamations prior to the stock market correction, check out those books I listed above. Philip Greenspun: insightful analysis of Microsoft v. Netscape plus bonuses, March 29, So I can vouch for the other reviewers' comments that Charles isn't Mr. Nor do I give the book 4 stars because he seems likely to displace Seamus Heaney as a poet. But you'll never see a clearer explanation of how hired-gun CEOs can run a company into the ground.

The bigger and most interesting example of this phenomenon covered in the book is Netscape. In ancient times it was believed that you had to train people for 5 or 10 years before they could assume significant management responsibility within a company. Jack Welch started at GE in He became CEO 20 years later. Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft in Venture capitalists are big believers in the idea that any random company can be lead by any random people with impressive resumes. But it doesn't seem to work in the software products business and Charles Ferguson explains why not.

So it is true that the book could have been better written and better edited. But the ideas are worth the wade. I've started companies and I've also been a VC and neither experience is very pleasant. The only pleasant parts are getting the initial idea, seeing it work, and then selling the company. There's a saying "hide the equity - the VCs are coming!

The VCs come in, take all the equity, make bad management decisions because they are financial guys and have 10 other companies to worry about and then either take all the spoils or spoil all the take. The fascinating thing about Ferguson's story is that the story of his business is not really about products or marketshare or management, its about VCs and Microsoft. That's the new business in today's world. The only downside of this book is why be so bitter about the company that made you into a hundred millionaire?

Michael Alatortsev : book starts really well, then quickly gets annoying , January 31, High Stakes is an intensely personal book from a witness to the start of the Internet revolution. Charles Ferguson had an essential widget for creating interactive web pages, and he had it before anyone else. He tells about the pain of suffering of growing a company ahead of its time and then getting caught up in the whirlwind that followed While the General Motors of the world took decades to become ossified, the author found a sclerosis of thinking in Silicon Valley as soon companies had any taste of success.

This is not a how-to book. This is a "how it felt book". I like it and I recommend it to anyone starting a company or anyone curious about technology and society. If you can't see anything wrong with the title line of this review, than maybe you will enjoy this book. There are a few nuggets in this book, but they are very few and very far between.

This guy is a total blowhard and is completely in love with the sound of his own voice. He is a total master of the obvious, he states obvious things at great length over and over again with minor variations. It's hard to believe that he was involved in any meaningful way with any hi-tech success. I think it's more likely that he lucked into a situation that he fought hard to stay a part of, but he was never really a key player. He is totally shameless in packaging and marketing this contentless rambling.

And more fool me, I bought the hard bound version. Froomkin is a professor of law at the University of Miami Law School, and a non-executive director of the Internet startup company Out2. This is an early draft of a book review that will be forthcoming in the Harvard Business Review. Charles Ferguson has written a very honest book.

That honesty is one chief reason to read it: he dishes the dirt on Netscape, Microsoft, his lawyers, his venture capitalists, and not least himself. But his very honesty gives the reader some critical distance--and gave us the tools to question how long the core conclusions of the book will continue to apply.

In Charles Ferguson--MIT-trained engineer, consultant, and high-tech industry analyst--had a brilliant idea: the world needed a visual development software tool to create online information systems. The tool had to be visually-oriented to be useful to the non-programmers who knew the information. Yet the tool had to be sophisticated to allow organizations to structure their data in useful ways. Ferguson sunk his then-life savings into his idea. He created his software corporation, Vermeer.

With his partner, Randy Forgaard , he assembled a very good programming staff. He raised venture capital. He pursued the enterprise with monomania mixed with paranoia. And by the end of there was code that was more sophisticated than the code of potential competing programs like NaviPress, Netscape Composer, or PageMill, and that actually ran.

Ferguson and his startup jumpstarted an important part of how we interact with the Internet. Because of his idea, because he backed it to the hilt, and because others saw what he was doing and imitated him, we as a society got a nine-month head start on the development and diffusion of visual tools for Internet information systems design.

This has enriched us all: we are in his debt. And he managed to carve off for himself a small slice of the user surplus that he and his organization created, and become rich. Ferguson and the rest of Vermeer's board accepted. His software project was renamed "Microsoft Frontpage. The two years of silence have elapsed. This book is Ferguson's story of the Internet startup that made him rich.

The Question

Or, rather, the story of the Internet startup Vermeer is one of three major threads that make up this book. For there are really three essays of varying length woven together within one set of covers:. The second essay is the story of the rise of the Internet and a briefing on the dilemmas of high-technology corporate strategy, written by engineer-consultant-business analyst, Charles Ferguson. The third essay is an attack on the harmful effects of Microsoft, written by someone--Charles Ferguson--who feels guilt at having profited from and added to Microsoft's economic leverage.

Other topics ranging from the Microsoft anti-trust trial to privacy law to productivity theory are raised, briefly discussed, then dropped. One of the more interesting asides is Ferguson's analysis of the sources of today's high technology: although the development came from the private sector, in his view the research came and had to come from the government. One of the more substantial tangents is a ten-page attack--the particulars of which seemed to go awry in places or so says DeLong, whose office is on the same hall as two of Ferguson's targets --on the Regional Bell Operating Companies and the economists who consult for them.

This is a book rich in asides. The next time you have to re-install Windows, you will be able to save and re-use your custom dictionary with ease now that you know where to look! Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here. The Best Tech Newsletter Anywhere. Join , subscribers and get a daily digest of news, comics, trivia, reviews, and more.

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