Dave Winer grew up in New York City
, and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science
. He attended Tulane University
and the University of Wisconsin
, completing his computer science MS
. Most of his research at Wisconsin was focused on the "outliner
," software that would let programmers work with source code
in a tree
style, expanding or collapsing loop
s and other programming structures, and allowing for an enhanced view of the program as a whole.
Personal Software, a Silicon Valley company that was developing the landmark VisiCalc program, briefly hired Winer to develop an outlining tool called VisiText. When the program was canceled in 1981, Winer ventured off on his own and created the LBBS message threading system, essentially a multi-user version of VisiText. As he watched users' interactions with LBBS on his host computer, he gradually refined the software to make it prettier and more user-friendly.
The result of all this was ThinkTank, a VisiText-like program that was released in 1984. Dave's brother Peter helped port various features of LBBS to the Macintosh, the newest and sexiest computer on the market back then. When Mac sales began to fade, ThinkTank was replaced by a cross-platform product called MORE, which was Winer's greatest triumph in the end user arena. Symantec bought Winer's development company in 1987, and he went on a spiffy year-long retirement.
Once he began to get bored with having a life, Winer went back to the Mac OS, and began designing a scripting language for the Finder called "Frontier." Apple then released AppleScript during the end stages of the Frontier development process, and Frontier languished in obscurity for several years, until some of Winer's friends gave him the idea to remake it as a CGI scripting language for the World Wide Web.
In 1999, Winer added a web interface to Frontier called "Manila," which allowed developers to edit their sites with nothing more than a web browser. Around the same time, he collaborated with Netscape to create a standard XML dialect for syndicating web sites, something we now know as RSS.
Since then, Dave Winer has designed a number of nifty things, including the OPML and SOAP protocols and the Radio UserLand aggregator. In 2003, he became a fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
I recently met Dave Winer: like many computer geeks, he's an overweight bearded bespectacled guy with a good sense of humor. In recent years, he's become less of a coder and more of a philosopher. His belief is that the weblog is going to be the next printing press: an innovation that brings human knowledge and understanding to a whole new level. Whether this is true or not, he is one of the leaders of the community: his own blog, Scripting News, is one of the most well-known on the internet, and he recently hosted the first BloggerCon to bring together Web mavens from all over the world.
He can be a dick sometimes, but I think he's earned the right to do so.