Before Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in the 1990s, one of the flagship projects at his company NeXT was WebObjects, a set of tools for making what were called at the time “internet applications.” Today we just call them websites.
On an Apple listserv on Tuesday, Java developer Hugi Thordarson emailed a blast saying that Apple had confirmed to him that WebObjects was officially declared dead.
He wrote (emphasis added):
In the past years I’ve regularly sent letters to [Apple CEO] Tim Cook, asking about the state of WO (being the naggy guy I am) and recently, I was contacted by Apple executive relations regarding my questions. The guy I spoke to called a couple of times, at first, he had absolutely no idea what WO was but the second time he called, he had obtained information and had a clear statement: “WebObjects is a discontinued product and will never be upgraded.”
WebObjects was ahead of its time, and when Apple bought NeXT it adopted the framework and even uses it to run parts of the online Apple Store even today. But WebObjects hasn’t been updated for external developers since 2008, even though there’s an active community continuing to maintain the tools.
“Our company decided that people are going to layer stuff above this very simple Web server to help others build Web applications, which is where the bottleneck is right now, ” Jobs said in 1996. “That’s what WebObjects is all about.”
Today, there are a variety of ways that do the same thing, so it’s mostly legacy developers that continue to use WebObjects.
The lowkey confirmation from Apple came as no surprise to the WebObjects developers still on the mailing list, though. Apple has been silent on WebObjects for years — there are online threads wondering if the technology was dead dating back to 2008. In 2009, Apple stopped including WebObjects with Mac OS X Server.
To Thorensen and other WebObjects developers, though, the official confirmation is something of a relief, even as it confirms something they already knew. He says that he’ll continue to work on Wonder, an open-source project based on WebObjects.
“As for this being the end of an era — not really,” Thordarson told Business Insider. “That era ended a long time ago.”
Here’s video of Steve Jobs presenting WebObjects at the Microsoft Professional Developers conference in 1996:
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