Today's blog post will be the first in a series of blog posts that I intend to write about my experiences with putting together a Windows Server 2008 machine without using the FrontPage Server Extensions (FPSE) for any web publishing. The main goal of this series is to describe some of the highlights and pitfalls that I have run into while transitioning away from FPSE.
Over the years I've seen the users of FPSE broken down into two groups: those that love FPSE and those that hate FPSE. So before anyone thinks that I fall into the category of people that hate FPSE, in this first part of the series I will explain a brief bit of my history with FPSE.
My Personal Background with FPSE
In late 1995, Microsoft bought a little-known Massachusetts-based company named Vermeer Technologies, Inc., which really only had one product: FrontPage 1.0. (Incidentally, that's where all of those _vti_nnn folders that FPSE uses come from: the "vti" stands for Vermeer Technologies, Inc.) The product was quickly transitioned into the Microsoft array of Office products, and Microsoft realized that they needed someone to support it. With that in mind, four of my coworkers and I started a FrontPage support team in Microsoft's Product Support Services (PSS) organization. The following photo shows what the five of us looked like "way back when..."
The First Microsoft FrontPage Version
Back then we supported both the FrontPage client and FPSE. Two coworkers specialized on what was then a small array of Windows-based servers (WebSite, Netscape, etc.), while another coworker and I specialized on the wider array of Unix-based servers, (NCSA, CERN, Netscape, Apache, etc.) At first FPSE was 100% CGI-based, but Microsoft soon released Internet Information Services (IIS) 1.0 for Windows NT Server 3.51 and we provided an ISAPI version of FPSE when FrontPage 1.1 was released in early 1996. In either case, FPSE was often somewhat difficult to configure, so a couple of my coworkers and I used to spend our free time searching the Internet looking for servers that were using FPSE incorrectly, then we would call them and offer to help fix their web sites for free. (Support was different back then, wasn't it? <grin>)
FrontPage Gains Popularity
Industry acceptance for FrontPage and FPSE grew rapidly through the releases of FrontPage 97 and FrontPage 98. During that same time period Microsoft released IIS 2.0 through IIS 4.0 for Windows NT Server 4.0, where I switched from supporting the FrontPage client and refocused my career to work exclusively with FPSE and IIS. Over a short period of time a couple of coworkers and I became the escalation point for all the really difficult FPSE cases - so chances are good that if you were using FPSE back then and you had a problem then one us us probably helped you fix it. Sometime around this period Microsoft decided to scrap internal development for the Unix version of FPSE, so Microsoft contracted Ready-to-Run Software, Inc., to port FPSE to Unix.
FrontPage Grows Up
The next couple of years saw the releases of FrontPage 2000, FrontPage 2002, and FrontPage 2003, where FrontPage did its best to move away from a simple web authoring tool into more of a feature-rich developer tool. During that same time period Microsoft released IIS 5.0 for Windows Server 2000 and IIS 6.0 for Windows Server 2003. Through all of these releases I slowly transitioned from an escalation team member to writing content, where I wrote or edited hundreds of Knowledge Base articles about FPSE and IIS for Microsoft's support web site. I also worked extensively with several members of the IIS product team in order to get some much-needed changes into FTP and WebDAV.
What was interesting about the release of FrontPage 2003 is that Microsoft did not release a version of FPSE to coincide with that release. This decision was based on the fact that the product team that was responsible for FPSE was also responsible for SharePoint, and they decided to drop FPSE as a separate product in favor of SharePoint. What this meant to FPSE end users was - FPSE was being slowly phased out in favor of SharePoint, or in favor of competing publishing technologies like WebDAV or FTP.
The End of FrontPage
After the release of IIS 6.0 I accepted a position as an SDK writer on the IIS User Education team, and a short time later I found out that the Product Unit Manager for IIS, Bill Staples, was looking for someone to take over web publishing in IIS 7.0 on Windows Server 2008. Bill and I had already had several discussions on the subject so I volunteered for the position, and for the last few years my life has been happily consumed with shipping FPSE, FTP, and WebDAV for Windows Server 2008.
During this same time period, however, Microsoft ended the line of FrontPage products; the team responsible for the FrontPage client splintered into the groups that now make the SharePoint Designer and Expression Web products, and the FPSE product team was now focusing exclusively on SharePoint. This situation meant that no one that worked on FPSE in the past was available to work on a new version for Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, which left FPSE users in a predicament if they wanted to upgrade their operating systems. With this in mind, the IIS product team decided to contract Ready-to-Run Software, Inc. again in order to port the Windows version of FPSE to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Even then, though, FPSE's days are numbered.
So, the short end to this long story is that I've been around the FrontPage Server Extensions in one way or another ever since the very beginning, and I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In my next post, I'll discuss using WebDAV instead of FPSE.