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Browsers become GUIs:

Products with web-based components

For several years, I've been following developments showing how the web browser has become the defacto graphical user interface for many different types of applications. You can read an old but relevant op/ed piece on web-based network management for PC Week (1997) and an opinion piece I wrote in 1996 about the subject for c|net's news.com. Some of these products are also covered in several of my Windows Sources columns. Another good directory of browser-based vendors and products can be found at AllegroSoft.

This page is a list of links that I intend to maintain keeping you up to date on these products. Where possible, the links go directly to demos of the product that you can conduct from the comfort of your own browser. Please note: this page is more of a historical record than a current listing, but if you find broken or outdated links, do let me know.

Web-based network management

Dan Backman of Network Computing magazine (7/15/97) wrote a cover story on web-based management that is worth reading. A group of vendors have been involved in the Web-Based Enterprise Management Standards effort, to make some coherent sense out of managing various devices with a web interface.

One of the first products to incorporate this is the Compaq Insight Manager XE.

There are several products that offer support for web-based management:

Embedded web servers and web appliances

A growing market of devices that are webs-in-a-box or thin web servers that can be embedded in other products. We have an entire page of links and products here, and you can read our in-depth report here. And here are some of the more popular embedded web products:

Calendaring software with web interfaces

This is a product category that makes a great deal of sense, especially to people that travel to places where they will still have their Internet connection and don't want to carry their calendaring software with them. However, there are critical differences among the various products: some can only read (and not post new) appointments via a browser, some must be installed on the same server as the web server, some are totally service-based that run at the vendor's site, and some only work on particular OSs.

Email and groupware products with web interfaces

If you are going to use the web to read your email, first try to find a local library, cybercafe, or Kinkos. There are many companies that are now providing services to major airports: you can try to check this airport directory, or go to Laptop Lane, which has rentable offices in a few US airports for a reasonable fee. Other comapnies, including Get2Net and QuickAid, also offer airport kiosks with net access for around ten dollars per hour.

There are four different categories of products that make use of the web. More information can be found at Mary Houten-Kemp's EverythingEmail. First off are those that use your own POP server and email account, and generally offer free access. Examples include:

Next are products that use their own POP server. These typically offer a free email account that you access by a web browser. There are zillions of products here at Yahoo, and notable ones I recommend are:

If you do use these web-based readers from a shared or public machine, make sure you follow some of my instructions here to clean up after yourself to prevent snooping from others.

Next are products that provide web clients access to non-POP groupware or LAN-based email servers through various gateways. In its March 15, 1997, Network Computing did an extensive review of three products, see When Groupware Worlds Collide: Giants Tackle The Net. And an old 1996 review in PC Week did a review of three other products. Examples include:

Finally, there are various web-based conferencing and discussion groups. Some are freely available via the Internet.

Routers, switches and hubs with web interfaces

This is another product space that makes sense. People have been dealing with telnet and command-line interfaces for too long. This is an active effort with many products coming soon. But trying to find out information about these products is a real chore!

Our CONTEST has come and gone, thanks to all who have entered to try to find the on-line demos of these vendors' products. See Web Informant #108 for contest details. The results? We had no winners. The following vendors have announced embedded web interfaces for their switches. We still don't have locations of any demos:

Here are other products with demos that we've found:

Web-to-3270 host gateways

There are a number of products that work in conjunction with a web server to allow browser users to connect to IBM mainframes. Many of these products can operate in several modes, including as gateways to web servers so that any Java-based browser can view 3270 sessions.

Other products that make sensible use of web interfaces

Products that I question why they are using the web as an interface:

copyright 1998 by David Strom, Inc.
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