FrontPage retires – Microsoft Expression Web is born and so begins the evolution of FrontPage hosting

The birth of a hosting company

In 1999 when Applied Innovations was first launched, it didn’t really take off like a rocket ship as one would hope.   You see, I started on the Internet around 1991-1992 via FTP, Telnet, Usenet and ahh my long forgotten friend Gopher.  I remember firing up one of the very earliest versions of UIUC’s mosaic and seeing text and images like a newspaper. I thought “wow that’s kind of interesting”.  It wasn’t until I watch the USS Enterprise animate across the screen that I realized the web was UBER-COOL!  With this revelation I quickly loaded a copy of NCSA HTTPD on a Solaris server and then various iterations of Linux. Learned HTML, then CGI programming and then PERL programming and it continued. It was with PERL programming that I found my new love.  I knew that developing interactive webcontent was going to be huge and for this Electrical Engineer it would be but a hobby, afterall I sold my soul to the world of Digital Communications, Digital Signal Processors and BEEPERS!

A month after the launch of Applied Innovations I spent two weeks studying for this fancy new exam Microsoft was touting. All these guys that they were “cool” suddenly because of this unbearably hard exam they had studied months for.  Well within that two weeks I became an Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I earned MCSE, MCP and MCP+I all within a 2 week time period. I remember sitting in the testing center after taking my first exam that day waiting for my second and people staring at me like I was nuts taking two exams in the same day. I wonder what they would say if they knew I passed all of them in just 5 days. Considering I had been working on computers since 82, built my first PC around 86, it’s not that hard to imagine this happening. 

Anyway, until this point Applied Innovations was a full blown apache based hosting company, IIS? Eh, windows was great for the home PC but not the web server. I needed PERL, not ASP. Once I really delved into IIS did I learn what was to come and sudden Applied Innovations started offering windows hosting.   Afterall, I can have both? ASP and PERL? If I host on IIS? How can you lose!?!

The quick growth of a hosting company

Now having done website development from the first earliest days of the web, I had already worked on numerous projects for clients and made a nice little portfolio of projects (in fact, my last PERL/MySQL project still lives today with the same design and code that I initially created). I used this portfolio of clients and launched a windows hosting company.  I had a good 30 or so clients and they were managing to pay for the server so I was happy.  Now having been an avid Internet user and dare I say developer, I had ofcourse used FrontPage before Microsoft purchased it and after. I saw the writing was on the wall and joined up to become a Microsoft FrontPage Host. Was accepted as a FrontPage host, listed on the Microsoft FrontPage resources and then the fun really started. I picked up a handful of clients and these clients soon spread the word that they had a FrontPage host that knew what was going on and was familiar with their little application/tool of choice. Suddenly we were bombarded with people wanting to sign up.  Now mind you until now Applied Innovations only hosted people I had personally worked for or knew.  Next thing I new we had people doing whois lookups and posting our phone number (my home phone number no less) on newsgroups, people leaving me voicemail messages like “Hi, um I heard you’re a webhost for FrontPage, if so call me. I need someone that knows what the hell is going on”.  I tell you it was exciting times.  Sending emails to our company email addresses, my personal email address, faxing in notes asking about hosting. It was a zoo!  I tell you we’re about to turn 8 years old and to look back on those times, that was by far the most fun.  

When people ask me how we got started? I honestly say “offering FrontPage Webhosting” and to this day we support FrontPage and will continue to support it as long as we’re around (and we’re not going anywhere). 

FrontPage, you see led to the birth of Applied Innovations. It was frontpage that let us grow and it was catering to frontpage and frontpage based apps that brought even more growth.   A few months ago it was announced that frontpage would not be released with Office 2007, that two new applications would come along, Sharepoint Designer for those looking to develop on Sharepoint services and Microsoft Expressions later to be officially released as Microsoft Expression Web.  This week Expression Web was released and alas the final chapter of FrontPage starts.

Expression Web, not just FrontPage 2.0

So you would think this would be a sad event for us to see FrontPage retiring. Well, in a way it is but we actually EXCITED to see Expression Web come forward. Let’s face it Macromedia, er I mean Adobe Dreamweaver is a great development tool and probably the tool of choice by most professional web designers, frontpage has been relegated to the tool of newbies for the most parts (though still a easy to use and powerful application). So it was inevitable that Microsoft would develop a new web design/development tool.

Expression Web, is not just a new web design tool, it’s an evolution of web design tools. It will without question be the catalyst that starts the other web design tools to evolve as well. Expression web brings CSS design to a new level of ease (I don’t know about you but I’m old school and more a developer than a designer and never really cracked the CSS egg, I understand it but think you need a degree in graphic design to really master it). Expression makes it possible for even me to write nice CSS designs.

Expression Web also becomes extensible, it brings some of the features of Visual Web Developer to designers allowing them to utilize and start developing dynamic content that they normally would leave to developers. Do you see it? Yes, Expression Web allows developers to do design work and designers do developer work? What’s that you say? Up is now down? White is now Black? Stop means Go? No, not quite, I just checked and hell hasn’t frozen over yet (yeah we’re all still safe for a little longer). It just means that these boxes we’ve built ourselves into are going to now have doors so we can get out of them and try new things.  It’s an exciting time for designers and developers alike.

I honestly can’t do Expression Web justice trying to explain it but what I can do is provide resources and links to those that can

  • First, the Microsoft Expression Family of Products website: Expression Web is just the first tool to be released
  • Then, the Expression Web Blog. I absolutely love it when development companies take up blogging. I guess the team at iD could be considered the first true bloggers with their finger’s constantly getting updated (if you don’t know what a finger is you’re not Old Skool!)
  • One of my favorites is the Expression Add-ins page. I believe we’ll see an even larger number of add-ins for Expression.
  • Starter Kits are all the rage these days and Expression has ’em. Expression Starter Kits.

Finally, My personal favorite resource, is our own Expression Web Resource page. That’s right Applied Innovations isn’t sitting back waiting to see what will happen with Expression Web, we’re jumping on it and offering Expression Web ready hosting immediately! All our plans are compatible with all features of Microsoft Expression Web. As a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and ASP.NET webhost, we’re Expression Web Ready!  Best of all we’re offering those clients interested in Expression Web special hosting offers.

That’s right, we’re Expression Web hosting ready and we’re ready to support it today. We look forward to contributing to the Expression Web community and watching it grow much like we’ve watched the FrontPage community grow and ofcourse the Internet grow.

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