One of Steve Jobs’ favorite projects from two decades ago has officially been abandoned by the company he founded.
Apple has killed off support for WebObjects, a now outdated program that once helped companies dynamically and instantly build new websites using information that customers entered online.
WebObjects was revolutionary in 1996. In the Web’s infancy, WebObjects was among the first tools that allowed websites to constantly update their sites with new data.
For the first time, retailers could allow people to customize the products they wanted to buy online. For instance, businesses that had products with always-changing prices, such as airlines and car dealers, could sell tickets and cars on their websites. And tech companies could sell gadgets in many different colors, shapes and sizes without creating a static website for each different model.
The iTunes and Apple Stores used WebObjects — and actually still use some of its code. A group of WebObjects developers still exist, even though Apple hadn’t updated the software since 2008.
WebObjects developer Hugi Thordarson noted in an online forum that he had asked Apple whether WebObjects would ever get updated again. The company said no.
“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,'” Thordarson wrote.
There are now a large number of more sophisticated tools that accomplish what Jobs and WebObjects revolutionized 20 years ago.
Jobs was incredibly enthusiastic about WebObjects when he launched the free software at Microsoft’s 1996 Professional Developers Conference (now called “Build”). Jobs called WebObjects “Act II of the Web.”
Jobs was his signature showman self during the presentation. In his black turtleneck and jeans, Jobs said WebObjects was “good — and true and right.”
“All this stuff just works,” Jobs said, like he said about so many products before and after.
In his presentation, Jobs said it took FedEx four months to build its online package tracking program. He said WebObjects would have allowed FedEx to build that tool in a matter of hours.
WebObjects was originally created by NeXT, the company that Jobs built after he left Apple. WebObjects was absorbed by Apple (Tech30) when it purchased NeXT later in 1996. ,