Microsoft plans to greatly expand the scope of the World Wide Web with a variety of tools designed to turn every user into a Web author.
At Tech Ed 96 in Los Angeles last week, Microsoft demonstrated three products it will release in the next three months that will help users create personal Web sites, share files over the Internet and corporate intranets, and publish documents on Web sites.
The first offering, called Peer Web Services and code-named Tarantula, is a software package that lets end-users expose folders stored on their hard drives as Web pages to be viewed by any other user on the network.
At the same time, Microsoft showcased a WebPost Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of APIs that will help tools vendors and Internet service providers (ISPs) take documents and post them on Web servers.
Last week, Microsoft demonstrated its own authoring tool based on the WebPost APIs, the WebPost Wizard for Windows 95 and Windows NT, which walks Web authors through the process of publishing to an HTTP server.
Until now, users says, Web publishing has been a difficult and time- consuming task.
"If Microsoft wants corporations to start publishing all their files as HTML documents and viewing them with the Internet Explorer, they'd better have an easy way to publish those documents," says the IS manager of a pharmaceuticals company in San Francisco.
The first stage of Microsoft's plan to simplify Web publishing is the Peer Web Services offering, which effectively turns PC clients into small Web servers by creating a port to files located on Windows 95 or Windows NT PCs through a Microsoft Internet Information Server.
These local files are assigned a URL so that other users can browse them as HTML documents or print them over the Internet or corporate intranet.
"The analogy is with peer services in Windows 95, where you set up a public folder on your machine that can be viewed from another LAN client," says Steve Guggenheimer, a Windows 95 product manager.
Microsoft says it has been even more difficult to post to an HTTP server.
"Right now, figuring out how to manipulate FTP [File Transfer Protocol] protocols is too complicated for the average user," says Yves Machali, Windows platforms programme manager.
Currently, users typically use the character-based FTP to post documents to a Web site.
However, with tools built with the WebPost SDK, such as the WebPost Wizard, a user only has to choose a name for the new site, specify the target URL, and select the file or directories to be posted. The wizard will detect the appropriate upload protocol, the correct transfer medium, and the destination path on the Web server.